LONG thought of as a male dominated profession, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is championing steps made to make the workplace appeal to both men and women.

As the service celebrated International Women’s Day, it called for more females to join.

Some of WYFRS’ key staff are women working in departments such as Finance, IT and the Control Room, and whilst this is widely expected, the general public is often still surprised to hear that in West Yorkshire alone there are almost 50 operational female firefighters.

However, this is currently only five per cent of the operational workforce.

Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said: “Unfortunately we sometimes find ourselves battling against an entrenched cultural viewpoint that this is a job for men, but that is absolutely not the case.

“We have around 50 operational females who are fantastic firefighters and as we have seen only last year London Fire Brigade Chief Danny Cotton lead the Fire Service response to the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower. She has been a fantastic role-model for women in the fire and rescue service nationally.

“That’s not to say our application process isn’t tough and the bar is set high – you do need to have a good level of fitness and strength combined with the dedication, skills and values we are looking for.

“But if you have ever thought you’d like to give it a go then please do not let an outdated stereotype stand in your way – this really is a career that can work for you!”

Last year WYFRS opened its wholetime firefighter applications up for the first time in eight years – and over 700 women applied, however only 45 made it through to the physical testing stage of the process, of which only four passed.

CFO Roberts added: “Sadly we lost a lot of women at the physical entry tests which really does reflect the need to be prepared and to be physically fit and in strength training when you apply.

“Our 50 female firefighters are living proof that it is achievable and we have put lots of information and guidance on how to reach this fitness level on our dedicated recruitment website www.joinwyfirefighters.com.”

Chair of the Fire Authority Councillor Judith Hughes said: “It may be that women feel this job will not fit around their lifestyles, especially if they are mums, or want to be mums.

“However you should know that if you are an operational member of staff who becomes pregnant then you would not be expected to attend emergencies which could be dangerous and another supporting role would be found for you for the duration of your pregnancy.

“There are also plenty of operational firefighters who are mums who work for us who benefit from the shift patterns which, for example, can be two day shifts, two night shifts and then four days off giving them flexibility around work/life balance.

“Some people use their days off to enjoy sporting pursuits and some even utilise it to run a small business they have dreamt of! So if you do not want to work an average 9am-5pm in an office environment then this could be an opportunity to do something completely new, working outdoors and saving lives.”

Other ways we have made the Fire Service a great place to work

• We provide education and awareness to staff that promotes gender parity through diversity and unconscious bias training

• We explore options for flexible working

• We provide information and support for staff and managers regards the menopause

• We make annual reviews on the gender pay gap and look at ways to close it

• We facilitate shared parental leave so that our male staff receive the same pay on shared parental leave as females on maternity leave

• We have reviewed our uniform to ensure that sizing options are fit for purpose for both men and women.

The service is also tackling the current topic of the gender pay gap.

From April 2018, any organisation that has 250 or more employees must publish and report specific figures about their gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is the difference between the hourly rate of pay of men and women, expressed as a percentage. For example, ‘women earn 15 less than men per hour.’ It is not a comparison between like for like job roles.

Chief Fire Officer John Roberts and chair of the Fire Authority Councillor Judith Hughes signed the UN Women’s HeForShe pledge this week asking people around the world to stand together for gender equality.

Across the board the gender pay gap average, for our support staff and operational staff combined, is 12 per cent – which is six per cent lower than the national average for the public sector.

"CFO Roberts said: "Whilst we are pleased with this, we are not resting on our laurels."