Female firefighters "gave an honest and inspiring account of what it was like to work for the Fire Service".
Mention the Fire Service to many British Asian women and they often view it as a no-go area for a career. Due to the influence of gender stereotypes, cultural inhibitions and portrayal in media, the idea of becoming female firefighters is not an obvious choice.
Instead, they will more likely perceive the Fire Service to involve athletically fit and strong, male firefighters with very little room for women, especially Asian women.
With these misconceptions, women from ethnic backgrounds can feel deterred from pursuing a career in this emergency service. Viewing it as a job they cannot aspire to.
This may lie in a lack of confidence or even misunderstanding about what it takes to be a firefighter.
However, West Midlands Fire Service is aiming to change this. By encouraging more British Asian women to enter the industry and addressing their misconceptions.
Through positive action, the service aims to have a workforce that reflects the diverse nature of UK society.
But what does ‘positive action’ mean? Instead of just ensuring they meet targets, the Fire Service is actively encouraging British Asian women to enter the industry.
They achieve this through a series of taster days and pre-recruitment courses, aimed solely towards women.
Samia Ghani attended these events, after hearing about them through the emergency service’s website. However, she always held a long interest in becoming a firefighter.
She, along with other women, learnt more about the Fire Service and what it experiences on a daily basis.
While one tends to assume firefighters tackle emergencies all the time, this only accounts for 3% of their tasks. This means then, Samia and others discovered more about the Fire Service through engaging activities.
Valuable Skills and Experience
Samia reveals how she found the taster day as “well-structured and a variety of activities were available to take part in”. Explaining more, she said:
“I participated in a number [of] different activities; one involved climbing up a ladder wearing the full firefighting kit and harness.
“Another activity was clipping onto a rope and following a trail with another person and our view was restricted, you had to work as a team and trust each other.”
With these intriguing activities, British Asian women can understand how it truly feels to work as a firefighter. Provided with worthwhile opportunities that open their eyes to the skills they can learn and the difference they can make. Samia adds:
“We took it in turns to lead each other, building up our teamwork and leadership skills. This activity gave me a great insight into what it feels like to go into a house full of smoke, and not being able to see anything and negotiating our way out whilst making sure we look after each other and remain safe.”
Teamwork is vital for firefighters. Not only do they aim to keep each other safe, but it sparks a sense of comradeship. After the taster day, Samia “gained a lot of knowledge about the work of West Midlands Fire Service”.
She also understood “how they work with people who are vulnerable in the community and complete a safe and well check”. With these positive action events, the Fire Service ensures British Asian women get a true experience of how firefighters work.
Not just handling emergencies, but working with communities such as schools, volunteers and groups.
The taster days and pre-recruitment courses also address any potential barriers British Asians may face in joining the Fire Service.
Yet, as Samia reveals, female firefighters “gave an honest and inspiring account of what it was like to work for the Fire Service”. Through these accounts, they explained the reality of working in this emergency service and its misconceptions.
“People have a misconception that firefighters need to be as fit as an athlete. Even though that would not be a disadvantage, but people do not necessarily need to be as fit as an athlete.”
Instead, many people who take up regular exercise, but not to an athlete standard, are still able to join the Fire Service. West Midlands Fire Service only requires candidates to be “physically fit”, meaning many British Asian women can join.
In addition, Samia believes the Fire Service is tackling its lack of diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender. She explains they are “actively encouraging more people from ethnic minorities to apply”.
“They promote the work of West Midlands Fire Service through social media and having stands at local events and by giving the public an opportunity to discuss career opportunities in the Fire Service.”
Through these taster days and pre-recruitment courses, the emergency services show British Asian women that it’s possible for them to become female firefighters.
A Fulfilling Career Awaits!
Overall, Samia enjoyed both the taster day and pre-recruitment course. With a greater understanding of firefighters and their skills, her interest to join the Fire Service has grown. She explains: “I am very lucky because my family is very supportive about me joining the Fire Service.”
However, some British Asian women may not find themselves in a similar position. They may feel worried about their family’s reactions, due to misconceptions or cultural values. In addition, some Asian families may worry about the sense of danger in this career. Fear and anguish can understandably play a big part in this.
But Samia offers this advice:
“I would definitely encourage women from all backgrounds to apply to become a firefighter because I believe it is a very exciting and rewarding career.”
Through Samia’s story, this truly reflects that British Asian women can become firefighters. West Midlands Fire Service not only addresses barriers but provides women with the chance to develop skills and experience in the service.
Building up women’s confidence and ambition, this gives them the first step to embark on a fulfilling career!
To find out how you can apply for West Midlands Fire Service’s taster days and pre-recruitment courses, visit their recruitment service here.