By 1987 women were becoming more involved in the fire service than ever before.
They had long served as control staff and had worked before on the frontline, during the Second World War, but it wasn’t until the early 1980s that women began to be recruited as full time professional firefighters. Women in the fire service often had a tough time being accepted by their male colleagues and many faced discrimination and harassment.
Former London firefighter Ghada Razuki said it took her two years to settle in but that the union helped improve the situation. After women began to organise themselves, the union in London set up a women’s advisory committee in the capital to focus exclusively on issues facing women and give them a greater voice within the union.
Former London firefighter Sian Griffiths was a founding member of this committee. This strengthened women FBU members in their ability to take up issues around facilities, uniforms as well as the difficult issues of bullying and harassment faced by women firefighters.
The FBU’s national women’s committee continues today to develop policies on issues specifically affecting women including progress on equality and diversity in the workplace and working to eradicate bullying and harassment. Some of the core issues for female firefighters include appropriate equipment and kit (women are often still issued with ill-fitting uniforms), childcare, and maternity arrangements.
The last of these issues was raised at the FBU conference in Blackpool in 2017, where the committee’s Louise Connell warned of a maternity leave “lottery” in fire and rescue services across the country.