Thursday 18 July 2019

#FirefightingSexism: Four-year-old inspires global firewomen campaign

West Midlands Fire Service took action for Esme, four, who thought only men could be firefighters.

By Edd Dracott, Press Association

A fire service has sparked a global campaign after they shared images of their female firefighters to encourage a four-year-old girl interested in becoming one.

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) posted a video response to journalist Hannah Summers after she tweeted that her young daughter Esme thought only men could be firefighters.

“My 4yr old came home yesterday saying she wished she was a boy so she could be a fireman,” wrote Ms Summers. “When I said girls can be firefighters too she said ‘but I’ve seen in books they are all boys and I don’t want to be the only girl.’

“Any good vids/books I can show her?”

In response, WMFS made a short film of their firewomen directly addressing Esme, telling her “we’re firefighters and we’re girls.”

The service added they “would love to meet” Esme and invited her to visit the station.

Under the hashtag #FirefightingSexism, WMFS’s initiative has spread globally, with fire services from Germany to the US posting images of their firewomen.

WMFS station commander Marc Hudson, 39, said they saw Ms Summers’s tweet by coincidence whilst preparing for a celebration to mark 30 years since they employed their first female firefighter.

“We wanted to send a message first to (Esme) to say of course you can be a firefighter,” Mr Hudson told the Press Association. “And second to raise the profile of female firefighters across the board.”

Amongst the responses, a New York firewoman tweeted a picture of herself breaking down a door with a crowbar.

“Here’s some love from across the pond,” wrote Twitter user @SpinnyHeadGal. “Breaking down doors is GREAT fun! If *I* can do this, you can, too!”

“Sad to see gender stereotyping persisting,” tweeted Carrbridge Fire Station, from Scotland. “To girls/women everywhere: Be proud, dream big, follow your dreams, be brave, be what you want to be.”

Ms Summers thanked WMFS and the other services for the response, sharing a picture Esme drew of herself as a firefighter.

“Thanks for all the fantastic photos of women firefighters – you all totally rock,” wrote Ms Summers on Twitter. “Esme has drawn a pic of herself as a firefighter to say thank you.

“She now firmly believes 100% that she can be a girl AND a firefighter so thanks again – job done! She’s also very excited about the invite to visit and would like to try on the yellow helmet!”

Mr Hudson said: “There is still that male connotation that a fireman is a fire-man.

“People need to understand that females are just as capable as their male counterparts.”

WMFS were ranked the second most inclusive employer by the Inclusive Companies’ Awards in 2018, and Mr Hudson said 8% of their operational staff are female.

“We have come a long way but there is still a lot of work to be done in promoting not only females but people of different backgrounds into the fire and rescue service,” said Mr Hudson.

He said he is encouraged that “traditionally male roles” such as those in the military and police are doing “a lot of work” on similar initiatives.

Assistant chief fire officer Simon Shilton of Avon Fire and Rescue, who shared images of their firewomen, said: “It’s important that our service reflects the communities we serve and we always encourage people from different backgrounds to consider joining us.

“Ultimately we want people who are driven by representing and making a positive difference in their community.”

PA Media

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