Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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International Women's Day 2020

Ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service held a joint conference at Hylands House in Chelmsford with the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Essex Police and the East of England Ambulance Service on Friday 6 March.

The conference was attended by staff within the three emergency services and was opened by representatives from each service.

Deputy Chief Officer Rick Hylton said: “I am incredibly proud to be standing up here - because International Women’s Day and equality is not a women’s issue - it’s a business issue. And it’s everyone’s role to forge a more gender balanced world.

“Our determination and perseverance is the least we can do for our colleagues, and also our gift to our next generation. Let’s build a gender equal world together.

“We know that a gender equal world leads to healthier and more harmonious workplaces, which enables our economies and communities to do better. As emergency service colleagues, we want our communities to be better and safer.”

Attendees from heard from Chief Superintendent Una Jennings from South Yorkshire Police about her inspirational career in policing and how we all need to play a part in challenging gender stereotypes for the next generation.

Una said: “Our children will look at what we did to make a change. Leave a legacy for your children that we all can be everything that we could be and everything that we should be. Change our world one step at a time.”

Next, they head from Superintendent Miles Ockwell from Sussex Police who has been recognised nationally for his work as a gender-equality champion addressing gender inequality with the United Nations HeForShe movement.

Miles said: “I find gender inequality quite difficult to comprehend. I’m one of six - three boys and three girls. Despite being brought up together, despite being born in one of the most economical countries in world, my sisters had less chance of earning and progressing in their careers than men.

“As employees in our organisations, surely we want to work in a fair and just environment so everyone can go to work happy.”  

In the afternoon, Superintendent Tara McGovern from the Metropolitan Police Service spoke to attendees about her breast cancer diagnosis in January 2019 and the importance of regularly checking for signs of breast cancer.

While going through chemotherapy, Tara set up a campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer for women in policing and to support them on their journey.

Tara said: “Breast cancer affects men and women, go home and talk to everyone you love about being breast aware.”

Next, Group Commander Nicola Lown from London Fire Brigade spoke about her role in Women in the Fire Service and about how when she became a firefighter there were only 6 women out of 6,000 firefighters.

Nicola said: “The Women in the Fire Service mission is to enable and inspire confident and successful women to build a more progressive fire and rescue service.”

“We can change the culture and for me it is seeing role models. Always look for the people that you can aspire to be, the kind people, the professional people and those that will listen to you as it’s absolutely invaluable what they can do for you.”  

PC Dawn Wood from Essex Police spoke about her 3,000 mile solo row across the Atlantic Ocean while Colette Black, Assistant Chief Executive Officer for People, Values and Culture at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service led a workshop about culture in the workplace and how we can all promote equality.

Colette said: “A truly inclusive workplace enables all of our people to thrive. Be the change, be all that you can be.”

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Each For Equal and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service works daily to ensure its staff feel empowered in their role regardless of gender, race, sexuality or background. That includes support through a number of staff networks including our Women’s Forum and LGBTQ+ support network, BEING.

The Service challenges the myths and tired old stereotypes of what being a firefighter is, while also raising the profile of other areas in the Service. The Service has hosted taster sessions for groups who have traditionally been hugely under-represented within Fire and Rescue Services - like women and BAME.

Its Service Leadership Team now has a 50/50 gender split, too - something Chief Fire Officer Jo Turton pushed for when she joined the Service.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is supporting International Women’s Day but equality and diversity is an everyday priority for the Service to make it stronger and better equipped to protect the communities it represents.

Could you join Essex County Fire and Rescue Service? Head over to www.join.essex-fire.gov.uk to see what roles the Service has on offer.

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