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Stopping the drip Looking for new ways to stop the harassment of women firefighters.

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Presentation on theme: "Stopping the drip Looking for new ways to stop the harassment of women firefighters."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stopping the drip Looking for new ways to stop the harassment of women firefighters Dr. Dave Baigent GradIFireE, BA Hons, Phd To hear the recorded version go to

2 Ongoing research on the how firefighters develop and protect their (masculine) identity Background –One more last working class hero (www.fitting- –Research of a (largely) unreconstructed masculinity (represents a patriarchy at work Walby 1986, 1990) –Developing an understanding of a source of hegemonic masculinity (Connell 1987, 1995, 2005) –Qualitative research using to produce findings that firefighters might understand (Grounded Theory Glaser and Strauss 1965Pro-feminist auto critique (Hearn 1994)

3 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 watch (group cohesion) A need to protect their (masculine) identity Put into practise through Formal culture (institutional process) Informal culture (group behaviour)

4 Informal Culture Informal culture is pervasive Firefighters need to prove that they belong – that they fit-in (concepts of pre-destiny Weber 1971) Newcomers on the watch are persuaded to fit-in Power of the group/watch over the individual Power of the watch to resist managers Each watch at each station can have a slightly different variable In a fire service with 25 stations – 4 watches on each station can lead to 100 variants of the informal culture Every watch forms up under the umbrella of the union

5 Research that indicates the extent that male firefighters harass women First survey Who Rings The Bell (Baigent 1996) indicates that over 60% of women firefighters have experienced harassment Second survey One Decade On (Baigent 2006) indicates that over 50% of women firefighters have experienced harassment Findings supported by HMCIFS (2001), Johnson (2004), Wright (2005) Recognition by Hearn and Parkin (1987, 1995: 74) and Walby (1990: 52)

6 What does the 2006 data say in reply to the question about harassment? FrequencyPercentValid Percent Cumulative Percent ValidYes No Comments indicate bullying/harassment has taken place Total Missing System 41.8 Total (53.4%) of the respondents replied Yes 99 (44.4%) replied No. Five women fell into the fell into the group whose qualitative response were recorded as Comments indicate bullying/harassment has taken place.

7 When asked During first year did harassment occur: frequently, occasionally, never? 26.6% (50) of women answered Frequently, 25.5% (61) of women answered Occasionally 39.9% (75) of women answered Never. Two women firefighters fell into the group whose qualitative response were recorded as Comments indicate bullying/harassment has taken place. FrequencyPercentValid Percent Cumulative Percent ValidFrequently Occasionally Never Comments indicate bullying/harassment has taken place Total MissingSystem Total

8 The Drip Sonia: I was excluded … It was instigated by one person who was very influential Sue: Another member of the watch not speaking to me or communicating during drills - practical "jokes" eggs in shoes wetting me etc Sarah:In the first year, just remarks questioning my strength and ability to do the job. But these comments were always made by the same person with an audience.. not one on one

9 Official support for women and recognition of their sexual harassment HMCIFS (1999) labels fire service as institutionally sexist Bain Enquiry (2002) identifies unacceptable treatment of women Select Committee (2006) identifies failure to meet targets for women firefighters Chief Inspector of Fire Service (2006) A worse situation than 20 years ago Not the bottom of the league but in a different league Minister for Fire makes it very clear that she expects more women to be employed (Smith 2007)

10 Recognition of reality – Women are being harassed A number of interventions Moral argument Education Sanctions

11 Moral argument fairness for all supported by FBU/employers Failed Education All firefighters receive equality training Failed Sanctions Strict discipline measures threatened Failed Analysis Education Provides the tools for men to avoid being caught Threat Increases secrecy -Drives harassment further underground Increases group solidarity Culture identifies the harasser as victim Women afraid to speak out because of backlash

12 Structural/institutional or individuals? 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 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 weakened - settled out of court (including a silencing agreement) –Firefighter treated badly stood up against the men - worn down weakened – took out sexual harassment action – settled out of court (including a silencing agreement) –Student harassed whilst on work-placement kept secret spoke out after she left – will not now join the fire and rescue service

13 Analysis Practise Occasionally overt sexism Mostly a drip drip (having a laugh) Common factor The group (watch) allow this behaviour Outcomes Victim – fit-in – stay -? Victim – fit-in - resist – leave

14 Whats happening to the woman? First caught in the headlights –Woman able to recognise what was happening –Believing once men accepted them it would get better –Some women just accept this situation Some still caught in headlights –Wanting justice –Doubting sanity –Psychologically unable to continue Could have been solved – If the group had chosen this behaviour could have been stopped

15 Whats happening in the organisation Defend the victim Until the point when they take legal action Then –Caught in headlights managers are transfixed by the need to protect the organisation –The perpetrator may be to blame but with a court case looming until the organisation can buy her silence they must act against the women –After buying the womens silence there is no evidence against the perpetrator 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 –Women learn the lesson that if they complain they will loose their job

16 Firefighters attending to their needs (Defending their identity and hegemony) Firefighters believe they need to fit-in with each other to maintain the cohesive team Watch develops a collective memory and in some ways this makes each watch unique This collective memory (tradition) is protected by each cohort of firefighters for the next generation Handed down through homosociality – protected by bullying and harassment The individual fulfils their needs through the group (watch) they work with The watch (their work) becomes their way of understanding the world The individual in the fire service (through their informal culture) may be attending to all five needs (Maslow 1987); including the potential to believe they self-actualise Hegemony will only end once people remove support

17 Mens hierarchys Culturally dominant Hegemonic masculinity Complicit masculinities Subordinated masculinities Culturally less powerful women

18 Looking for a way of turning this situation around Something that –Employers can gain from –Helps the individual victim –Helps the individual harasser –Leaves the team intact –Does not stop fitting-in –Does not remove the healthy and antagonistic relations that exist –Something that breaks the circle of violence –

19 The circular question from Avons 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

20 Concept of empowering the victim Victim is only the victim because they are trapped Fire Service are also trapped Fire Services inability to do anything also adds to victims powerlessness Women must fit-in or leave

21 Two ways forward Formally Senior Managers must recognise what is happening Understand the complicated cultural arrangements Recognise you cannot warm up the whole sea Concentrate resources on one area Junior managers must be trained to intervene Informally Spartacus moment Someone must speak out to stop the drip

22 Stopping the drip Looking for new ways to stop the harassment of women firefighters Dr. Dave Baigent GradIFireE, BA Hons, Phd

23 To find research on the fire service visit To share/publish your research on the fire service send it to

24 Out takes follow

25 Complicated arrangements associated with Hegemonic Masculinity Connell: a social experience which establishes the gender hierarchy as taken for granted Hearn: a social phenomenon that all men gain from; reinforced by some men through violence Walby: a social practise through which men adopt a patriarchal position to dominate women

26 Every Social group must … secure for its individual and group membership: The satisfaction of material and economic needs. The maintenance of spontaneous co-operation throughout the organization (Mayo 1949) The apprentice learned to be a good workman, and he also learned to get on with his fellows (Mayo 1949) (See also Baigent 2006 Mayo) Whilst Mayo provides considerable insight to the power of the group and this insight can be operationalized from research in the fire service, what has yet to be explored alongside Mayos understanding of how powerful the group can be, is that the group does not want to change. Leader at ground level (operational) may defer to maintaining group cohesion over and above everything else.

27 Connells Gender Hierarchy Connell suggests gender relations are far from being fixed or an assured thing. Rather he sees it as an ongoing process and the outcome of human agency Masculinity is not a coherent subject that academics are always comfortable in generalising about Masculinities are relational - constructed against an other (traditionally femininity)







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