Only in the last few years have more women joined the fire service, through its operational level and graduate level.
Women in the fire service is being promoted today at the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) conference in Monaghan today. Less than 2% of the retained fire service comprise of women and less than 8% of the fulltime fire service are women, according to a recent study undertaken by the CFOA.
Most women begin their career in the fire service at firefighter level, while some start in the fire prevention or graduate sector of the service.
By Declan Keogh,
For one firefighter, working up to Sub Officer rank took 9 years, but as the only female firefighter in Tipperary for 16 of her 18 years in the brigade, Cashel Sub Officer Anthea Browne told Emergency Times she has enjoyed the challenges she faced along the way and believes the women’s network in the fire service is a positive move.
“As many women as possible attended the initial event launch. It was amazing, it was the first time there were more women in a room than men, usually I’m the only woman in the room and this time it was reversed, there was only one man in the room among 40 or 50 women from all different parts of the fire service, from senior officers, to junior and firefighters and people from fire control too. The women’s network in the fire service is a very positive move by the Chiefs” she said.
Cashel Sub Officer Anthea Browne. (Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
Career wise, joining the fire service may not be something which pops into many women’s heads, especially years ago and there was a perception that the fire service might not be suitable for women or women may not be fit enough for the work of a firefighters.
Sub Officer Browne has quashed some of those myths. “People look at me, I’m small and people think I wouldn’t be able to carry them down a stairs etc, but team effort does that. I do work hard to keep fit and make sure I am fit and strong enough to be able to carry out my duties the same as anyone else.”
Newbridge Station Officer Nigel Tobello speaking with Kildare TY students in Newbridge. (Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
Asked whether female firefighters have to work that much harder to prove themselves to their male colleagues, Anthea says that’s not always the case. “Maybe I had to work a bit harder than some of the guys at the start, but it’s something I really wanted and it’s something I worked really hard for, apart from that I’ve a great working relationship with all the guys in my station and its been a very good 18 years of service.”
“From my point of view I want to show that I am a woman, yes, but I’m as good as any man in the job, I can do what they can do, there’s no need to ‘mind me’ or protect me because I am a woman, there’s no need for them to say; no, you don’t do that, ill take it from here. That’s my own experience personally but it’s also for other guys or girls coming in to the service for the men to say yes, she’s one of us, she has the same capabilities as us and let me do my job, but overall its equal among us all.”
‘Women in the fire service’ (Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
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