Only 4%

Firefighting has been in and out of the news a lot in the last two months and not necessarily for good reasons. As Julie Bindel points out the recent story about the woman who got 40% burns over her body as a result of pouring petrol from a jerry can to a jug in her kitchen has kept the Fire Brigade Union National Woman’s School press officer occupied. Journalists assume that because the incident involves fire and a domestic event that women firefighters should want to comment.  On a different note the Atherstone-on-Stour inquiry has begun. Three senior firefighters have gone on trial for what a court has heard described as the needless deaths of four firemen.

Needless to say the issue over women firefighters versus male firefighters has come back into the press. However has the debate really changed much in the last decade? Women have been fire-fighters since World War Two but have their numbers really increase in the fire service?

The image of a firefighter tends to be a man, lets face it. Although firefighters are inherently cool, the stereotype is a guy often a good looking rake with his heart in the right place (depending on what movie you watch) but a man none the less.

But never fear ladies there are women fighting back against this stereotype, the number of women joining the fire service is on the rise in a way that it never has been before.

Increase in Women Firefighters 2001-2011

Fire and Rescue Service: Operational Statistics Bulletin for England 2010-11 - Appendices 19-23


But at the same time, there is obviously still a long way to go before the numbers even out.

Headcount of firefighters by gender

Fire and Rescue Service: Operational Statistics Bulletin for England 2010-11 - Appendix 20

So why is it that after such along time people women are still so few in number in the fire service. Julie Bindel in her article in the Guardian points out that women make up only 4% of the fire service, up from 3% in 2006. She suggests that one of the problems is because of the sexist nature of fireman culture pointing out the problems that women faced in the eighties as well how much work is still to be done.

Bindel’s perspective is one set of observations, in attempt to get another look into the world of female firefighting. Through a freedom of information request I found out that the only female Deputy Assistant Commissioner appointed in the last five years was Dany Cotton. I went to go speak to her in attempt to get a little more understanding of the world of female firefighters.

If you want to check out the interview look for the posts Heroes and Heroines, Keeping Tabs On The Men and Recruitment and Saving The Clipper.

Source: Fire and Rescue Service: Operational Statistics Bulletin for England 2010-11 – Appendices 19-23
Featured image Source:  American Press Association. [Public domain], used with their permission via the Wikimedia Commons

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