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Why is equality and diversity in the fire service so difficult to achieve? What can be done? Dave Baigent

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Presentation on theme: "Why is equality and diversity in the fire service so difficult to achieve? What can be done? Dave Baigent"— Presentation transcript:

1 Why is equality and diversity in the fire service so difficult to achieve? What can be done? Dave Baigent Sarah OConnor

2 Our agenda for today 1.Talk about equality 2.Identify what has been done in UK 3.Discuss fire service culture(s) and masculinity 4.Recognise how firefighters learn their skills 5.Suggest the Fitting-in Plan 6.Offer further support © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

3 This PowerPoint is fully supported We are here to help Today Tomorrow And in the future Sweden is not that far away visit us at

4 Why promote equality and diversity? Reasons Moral argument/ political judgement. Diversity may provide new skills and open new channels to reach out to the diverse communities we serve (both operational and in improving fire safety) To be considered Political, moral and economic considerations may not always be at the top of firefighters' value system. It is proving difficult to widen the view of those firefighters who believe they deliver a first rate service (utopian conservative ideals that indicate that firefighters know best). Firefighters organise their working environment and operational duties around the way they currently do their job. Change threatens traditional working patterns and life biographies Firefighters construct an identity around their work – integrating others (people firefighters believe are not like them) dilutes masculine identities and challenges mens hegemonic dividends. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

5 Does the workforce represent the community? Numbers Both the UK and USA started employing women firefighters around the 1980s Nearly 30 years of hard work and: – UK Women at 3.3% (C&LG 2009) – USA Women at 3.7% (Hulett, Bendick, Thomas et al. 2008a) Swedish women at 1.17% (Callerstig, Harrison and Lindholm 2009) Do firewalls and ceilings prevent women joining and progressing in the fire service? © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

6 We dont like bullies but Equality may be one of those areas where people only hear what they want to hear It is sometimes difficult for managers to recognise that they are not always in control

7 Identifying the extent of the problem High profile incidents in the UK created a focus Very high levels of sexism 1996 The UK fire service employs around 39,000 men and 139 (0.5%) women firefighters 63.9% of women firefighters replied to the survey indicated they have been sexually harassed (Baigent 1996) Chief Inspector of Fire Service labels the organisation institutionally sexist (HMCIFS 1999) 2007 Fire service employs around 31,000 men and 800 (2.5%) women firefighters: 53.4% of women firefighters report they have been harassed (Baigent 2006) Chief Inspector of Fire Service – Not at the bottom of the league but in a different league © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

8 Government recognises problems based in the culture of the Fire Service A large proportion of respondents in a recent firefighter survey stated they had witnessed unacceptable behaviour in the previous 12 months, including: – verbal (58 per cent) and physical(11 per cent) assault – bullying and harassment (51 per cent) One major barrier to improving equality and diversity appears to be cultural attitudes. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

9 What did the women say to fitting-in? Being singled out to do difficult tasks on your own when it was group training. Minor mistakes highlighted and being made a fool of in front of watch. Colleague making things up to watch about things I did or didn't do on fireground. 1st station ignored. Walked out of rooms etc. 2nd station - physically, verbally, sexually harassed. Inappropriate questions, conversations, magazines, language and comments directed at women while I was around. Belittling, sexual innuendo, preventing attending courses, shouting, swearing, threatening behaviour, being told I was not putting my career in front of my family and this was wrong, threat of no promotion because I was a mum, intimidation, telling colleagues how I was no longer competent at directing courses, being prevented from transferring to another department.

10 USA Research on similar occupations indicates that it would be reasonable to expect 17% of women to be attracted to firefighting despite its being dirty, dangerous, and demanding. When fire department leaders are challenged about these numbers, they traditionally respond that women do not want and cannot handle the job, so that low numbers are to be expected. At the current, females will not reach 17% of firefighters for another 72 years. Such findings are typical of workplaces whose culture resents the presence of women and, consciously or unconsciously, intends to exclude them. Formally defined, a workplaces organizational culture is the system of beliefs, values, and ways of behaving common to that workplace. Less formally, it is simply the way things are done around here. These cultures tend to evolve slowly and resist change both actively and passively. (Hulett, Bendick, Thomas et al. 2008b) © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd


12 So who is building a the fire wall? People blame the culture But do they understand what is meant by culture? ? © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

13 The question asked at the Avon women and leadership conference (2006) Question How do we increase the numbers of women firefighters in the fire and rescue service? Answer Change the culture Question How do we change the culture? Answer Increase the number women firefighters in the fire and rescue service

14 Sexism Not just a British, Swedish, European or even American or Australian problem – it appears worldwide Sexism? Avoidance, vagueness, gender blindness ? Not simply because men are always identifying women as different But because difference is unacceptable in the fire service © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

15 Looking for answers – Increasing reliance on finding the right management tools (constructing more and more bureaucracy) Hardly any recognition of the problem outside of traditional change management schemes Similar to the police, there is a tendency to deny the problem. A proud Fire Service solves its own problems At one stage the news on the harassment of women got so bad that Chief Fire Officers attempted to force the agenda to be positive There was almost a moratorium on bad news in this area because it was so debilitating © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

16 Language For example language – how often are women ignored? Important to recognise womens presence. Sweden represents a particularly interesting example as it is a country widely perceived to be amongst the most gender equal in the world. Firefighter reality - Are your firefighters different to those throughout the world? Are your women different? The male-dominated municipal fire service does not neatly correlate with this impression. (Callerstig, Harrison and Lindholm 2009: 49) new methodologies for fire fighting, which reduce the risks and provide an acceptable protection of health and safety for firemen. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

17 UK Approach Government put in place a huge framework of requirements alongside the Modernisation of the UK Fire and Rescue Service Collect statistics Set targets for employment of women Action Plans Impact Assessments Audit by external agency Performance management To what extent have these strategies and promoters of equality been successful? Little has changed Women are still being harassed Why? As one senior women trade unionist said at a working group we had organised with government – strategic this strategic that – you havent got a strategic clue. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

18 What was this woman talking about? Women are being harassed Moral argument – fairness for all - supported by FBU, Government and managers – FAILED Education – All firefighters have received equality training – FAILED Sanctions – Strict discipline measures threatened – FAILED Outcome – Education » Provides the tools to avoid being caught – Threat » Increases secrecy » Drives harassment further underground » Creates/increases group solidarity » Culture identifies the harasser as victim » Stops women speaking out because of backlash © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

19 Is harassment a consequence of structural, institutional or individual actions? Case studies Four women who left the fire service – Principal Manager challenged the culture just be being there marginalised by other principal managers throughout the fire service held her ground – worn down - took out a sexual harassment action – so weakened settled out of court (including a silencing agreement) – Watch manager successful career promoted and not accepted by peers looked for help – unsupported by managers – took out sexual harassment action - so weakened settled out of court (including a silencing agreement) – Firefighter treated badly – stood out against the flow – weakened – took out sexual harassment action – settled out of court (including a silencing agreement) – Student harassed whilst on workplacement – kept secret – spoke out after she left – will not now join the fire and rescue service

20 © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd Whats happening to women firefighters? First caught in the headlights – Women able to recognise what was happening – Believing once men accepted them it would get better Still caught in headlights – Wanting justice – Doubting sanity – Psychologically unable to continue Could have been solved – Any man in the group could have stopped this behaviour but the culture prevented it

21 © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd What is happening in the organisation? Managers say we cannot do anything unless you take formal action Managers help the victim until women take legal action Then – Caught in headlights managers are frozen by the need to protect the organisation from expensive harassment claims – The harasser may be to blame but with a court case looming until the organisation can buy the womans silence they must act against the victim – After buying the womens silence there is no evidence against the harasser Result – Little or no recognition of the problem – Avoiding or not even looking for the truth – Little or no attempt to take the moral high ground – All women firefighters learn the lesson that if they complain about harassment firefighters culture will attack them and drive them out

22 These arguments almost make as if fireservice culture has a life of its own Firefighters culture is a combination of group ownership, tradition and history Values that one cohort of firefighters will only pass down to people like themselves As a result, it is often the culture (rather than individuals) that takes the credit/blame for how the fire and rescue service harasses women who try to become firefighters

23 Research (Baigent 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007) that suggests Firefighters have three core values/needs A need to protect the public A need to protect their team and group cohesion A need to protect their (masculine) identity Put into practise through Formal culture (organisational – the culture managers organise) Informal culture (occupational the culture firefighters organise) Informal culture is pervasive Tradition that is held in trust from one generation to the next Power of the group/watch over the individual Supports firefighters resistance Firefighters need to prove that they belong (Webarian pre-destiny ) © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

24 Cultural Change Government recognise that cultural change can be slow 2007 performance assessment found no fire service consistently demonstrating good practice in its approach to equality and diversity. UK 2008/131 Cultural change in any organisation is inevitably a slow process, particularly in organisations with a relatively low staff turnover. To date, efforts to improve equality and diversity have concentrated on attracting a new set of more diverse recruits. The risk is that these efforts might be undermined unless further attempts are made to tackle attitudes to diversity and inappropriate behaviour. Such views are fully supported by academic debate on culture and masculinity © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

25 16/01/ Masculinity?

26 Masculinity - Culture Heavy manual work calls for strength, endurance, a degree of insensitivity and toughness, and group solidarity. … asserting superiority over women…working men's bodily capacities are their economic asset (Connell, 1995: 55) Creates the type of person who will act to help others and at the same time this person starts to see themselves as something special This celebrated identity is then seen as male firemen defend it against others (women and ethnic minorities) at the same time firefighters deny publicly that they are special. Jeff Hearn: a social phenomenon that all men gain from; reinforced by some men through violence. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

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28 Where does masculinity come from, what does it mean, how powerful is it? Creation of the imagery by firefighters that they risk their life to protect people who cannot protect themselves But how does this caring image fit when firefighters deny women access Harassing women to to protect firefighters public image?

29 Potentially three competing interests Firefighters have minds of their own Firefighters make a choices when they join in on cultural practices – good or bad Sometimes group behaviour can be so powerful as to almost force firefighters to act in a certain way – culture is learned behaviour

30 Heroes "Jantelagen," which rejects any pretence at bragging or bravado Firefighters I interviewed did not overtly boast about heroism False modesty is a form of image manipulation through which firefighter denying their heroism Actually accentuate the image of the heroic firefighter. Firefighters are quick to ridicule any firefighter who boasts of their heroism; a lesson that pays dividends once individual firefighters recognise for themselves that shy heroes are more popular than brash ones (Baigent 2001:47) © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

31 Informal Culture The informal culture set by the firefighters the way things are done around here Whether firefighters imagery is true or not it is believed by the public And by the firefighters who act out this part who must defending it protecting it proving it Firefighters do this by fitting people they recognise as like them in with their culture

32 Fitting-in each generation with the previous © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd Skills passed down from generation to generation – to people like themselves Some of the skills very positive Imagery is that firefighting is a dangerous occupation –reality is that it is an extremely skilful occupation –firefighters learn their skills from the previous generation Some toxic All male fire stations develop an atmosphere where sexually orientated conversations are common place. Humour and jokes Accepted new entrants are offered the opportunity to fit-in Positive and Toxic agendas are inextricably linked with excluding women

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34 Colin, six years service There are sheep and there are shepherds, or a shepherd. And a lot of people only see that way and anything that this person says is always right. Just overpowering..its hard to explain, come on lets do this and it just rolls. Starts, its like a snowball and it just gets bigger and bigger and you get caught up in it as it rolls and gets bigger. And thats the only way I can explain it in our watch.

35 Firefighters culture Fitting-in with the team Positive when it provides good team working skills Positive when it results in teaching new firefighters how to do their job Negative when bonding results in group think Negative when it celebrates a masculinity based on informal hierarchies and heroic imagery Negative when it becomes a counter culture that is controlled by white men who seek to exclude all others to protect their masculinity

36 The Plan Commitment by Politicians and Managers - Send a consistent message – Show that you mean it. Managers – Are you serious – Chiefs on board/committed – what does being on board mean? – You must recognise the problem – Strong line -No point can you blink Encourage what we permit – What we dont challenge we endorse. Would you allow your daughter to be treated like women are treated in the fire service. It is difficult for a manager to recognise they may not always be in control Womens network groups, Womens section © Dave Baigent/FittingTrade Union-in Ltd

37 Recruitment Research indicates for men and women Age 11 (Hulett, Bendick, Thomas et al. 2008b) American research indicates that 60.5% of women were introduced to the fire service by someone they know (Hulett, Bendick, Thomas et al. 2008b) Recruitment standards Set fitness levels as appropriate – question your own standards set by men for men – the belief that people who are physically strongest are the best – can be seen as a lowering of standards but evidence suggests standards have risen to a point where they become discriminatory. Perhaps in the same way that you teach trainees about science you could also improve their fitness levels by a programme during training. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

38 Show women they belong Facilities – Ensure women are afforded the same privacy and facilities they might expect in any other industry. – Toilets and washing facilities are a constant source of anxiety – Provide a uniform that fits. – A uniform is not just a way of recognising firefighters it is part of their toolkit – USA: 79.7% of women survey respondents reported problems with ill-fitting equipment. These problems involved (gloves 57.8% ) boots (46.8%), coats (38.9%), helmets (28.4%), and breathing masks (25.6%). Deal with harassment – Recognise and deal with incidents in the workplace – find an effective way of recognising what goes wrong and dealing with it – not a sledgehammer if it prevents women from refusing to speak out © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

39 Be Aware Success is likely to provide a backlash from men Men do not recognise the theory behind positive action Men believe positive action is used more than it is. Not lowering standards but ensuring everyone gets treated fairly – level the playing field When you first start this initiative there is an opportunity for the leaders to take their firemen with them Introduce the firemen to women firefighters as soon as possible – get the watch to sponsor and support their women Make the men feel they are part of the process Do not make the men feel it is being done to them © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

40 Take responsibility Monitoring and accountability – make managers responsible (consequences) - make firefighters accountable - Performance management Impact assessments, equality action plans, auditing

41 Warm up part of the sea Provide a choice – avoid a situation where trainees have to fit-in with difficult practices – manage trainees so they fit-in with positive models Concentrate your resources dont spread them out. Ensure one place is safe Put women together Grow and manage your new fire service. Establish an exemplary station Once this is working make this the norm and work on the next station Be flexible and ensure you monitor what is happening all the time Gradually undo the toxic side of male firefighters culture Physical space and psychological space Pranks which test people – homophobic, sexist and racist are stopped Need to demystify diversity movement (eg womens network) to alleviate fear syndrome amongst traditional majorities If this had been done in the 1980s then we would not have a sexist fire service now. © Dave Baigent/Fitting-in Ltd

42 Thank you very much We are here to help Today Tomorrow And in the future Sweden is not that far away visit us at

43 Fitting-in offers a range of services Fitting-in seeks to work with the experts – those leaders of the fire and rescue service who were chosen for their decision-making skills. Since 2001 Fitting-in has also provided a free space for the fire and rescue service and academia to meet and share research. This free service continues and people are invited to send their work to be published on this site. Fitting-in offers an extensive research, educational and training portfolio, snapshot audits and elite-briefing led workshops each designed to act as levers for change? Snapshot AuditsSnapshot Audits: - are a new concept developed especially for the MFRS that led to them saying: "The Service are delighted with the research and reports produced by "Fitting-in. We believe that your original hypothesis and work undertaken in Merseyside has resulted in a ground breaking piece of work that can only serve to inform the wider fire and rescue communities." If you want to look afresh at an old difficulty, respond to something new, carry out an impact assessment, then ask how fast we can turn around our research in an efficient, rigorous and economic way. Fitting-in can also cater for your traditional research needs and you may wish to tap into our expertise - contact us to see what we can offerresearch Elite WorkshopsElite Workshops:- are stand alone one day packages for senior managers and authority members on a whole raft of areas. Subjects covered include fire service culture(s), the employment of women as firefighters, change management, initial training. We can offer a whole host of education and training packages. These workshops have a primary aim of seeking solutions and will be customised to your requirements - they can also be used as team building days for your senior managers. We also offer a workshop for people who are having difficulty in understanding how equality works and what diversity means; people who may need to spend some time reviewing their attitudes. Contact us at Visit the website

44 Dr. Dave Baigent BA Honours, GradIFireE, PhD Mobile For a full CV After serving as a Station Officer for over 30 years in the London Fire Brigade, I studied for a first degree and then researched for my doctorate on fire service culture. doctorate on fire service culture. Principal Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge where I wrote and lecture on the UKs first Public Service Degree. This degree focuses on the critical skills necessary for uniformed services and considers formal and informal cultures, community participation, leadership, change management, modernisation, politics, equality and diversity.Anglia Ruskin University Director of the Fire Service Research and Training Unit at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. My research is mainly associated with the harassment of women firefighters, the development of informal masculine cultures and training.women firefightersinformal masculine cultures training. I am the founding director of Fitting-in, a consultancy that provides research, training and education for the fire and rescue serviceFitting-in Services include: snapshot audits to test new ideas and reconsider old difficulties; customised workshops to set strategy and at the same time build and develop teams;workshops to set strategy and at the same time build and develop teams; a range of customised educational/training opportunities; particularly on culture, change management, solving problems and the employment of women firefighters;culture, change management, solving problems and the employment of women firefighters; research Recently, with Sarah OConnor, I have been working with Merseyside developing the Ethos project that seeks to reconcile cultural difficulties, implement core values and improve industrial relations. Ethos 1 and 2 reports drew the following commentEthos 1 and 2 reports "The Service are delighted with the research and reports produced by Fitting-in. We believe that your original hypothesis and work undertaken in Merseyside has resulted in a ground breaking piece of work that can only serve to inform the wider fire and rescue communities." (ACFO Bill Evans) To sum up Dave has a 360 degree view of the fire and rescue service, he has been a firefighter, a researcher, educationalist, academic and consultant

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