The London Fire Brigade (LFB) are trying to finally extinguish the word ‘firemen’ in an anti-sexisim push aimed at encouraging more women to join the service.
The brigade on Monday urged Britons to stop using the “outdated term” which it believes is impacting recruitment.
Brigade research shows that many women think firefighting is for men and the LFB is concerned that referring to ‘firemen’ reinforces that stereotype, it said in a press release today.
“Outdated language is stopping young girls and women considering firefighting as a career,” Commissioner Dany Cotton said.
“The first woman firefighter joined London Fire Brigade in 1982 and it’s ridiculous that 35 years later people are still surprised to see women firefighters or calling them firemen.
“London is a complex and challenging city and it takes a diverse selection of skills, strengths and specialisms to protect it - qualities that both men and women possess. I want to shake off outdated language which we know is stopping young girls and women from considering this rewarding and professional career.
“We owe it to tomorrow’s firefighters to challenge negative stereotypes today.”
Reaction to the plans has been largely positive.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan endorsed the push, saying the LFB is “leading the way” in breaking down stereotypes and “removing the barriers to women in the workplace, and becoming as diverse and inclusive as the city it serves”.
Khan added: “Sexism, or any kind of discrimination, has absolutely no place in London – including the capital’s Fire Brigade - and I fully support this fantastic campaign.”
Khan said firefighters “do one of the most important jobs there is”, regardless of gender, singling out their “heroic response” in tackling this year’s deadly terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The Fire Brigade Union said it had not used the term ‘firemen’ for decades and has “consistently complained to print and broadcast media and programme makers for using this archaic term that no longer represents our modern fire and rescue service”.
General secretary Matt Wrack added: “We wholeheartedly welcome more women into the fire and rescue service because we believe that a diverse service should reflect the communities that firefighters serve. We are proud and pleased to be part of this initiative.”
Some former fire fighters however, thought the LFB shouldn’t change how staff are referred to, saying it was “insulting”, while others on Twitter suggested the general public is progressive enough to appreciate times had changed without the brigade needing to take a stand.
Some commenters were more pointed in their criticism suggesting the LFB’s initiative was “ultra PC triviality”.
But those responding negatively were quickly put in their place - by a firefighter.
The brigade is asking people to show their support by stating that they will not say ‘fireman’ on their social media accounts using the hashtag #FirefightingSexism.