Skip to main content

18045 – Female operational staff

< Back

A request for information about Female operational staff – 18045

Ref: FOI/18045


I am writing to confirm that the West Midlands Fire Service has now completed its search for the information you requested on 16th March 2018.

Please find below a summary of our findings.


What percentage of your operational workforce is female?




How has this figure changed over the last 5 years?


2013/2014 – 4.75%

2014/2015 – 5.02%

2015/2016 – 5.2%

2016/2017 – 5.4%


Do you adhere to the Equality Challenge Unit’s Athena SWAN Charter?

(If “No”, does the organisation follow an alternative charter with similar principles that recognises and awards commitment to and progress on gender equality and diversity?)


No despite the SWAN charter being extended beyond STEM industries into law and business its remit doesn’t as yet cover emergency services.

We are a Stonewall Equality champion and submit to the workplace equality index each year which allows us to develop an action to progress each year. We also submit to the top 50 inclusive employers currently scoring 29th most inclusive employer in the UK. Finally, we also audited via the Equality Framework for Fire and Rescue which is taken into consideration as part of the Government inspection programme of Fire and Rescue


What targets does the organisation have regarding increasing the percentage of operational female staff at firefighter level?


2017/2018 20% of new starters will be women

2018/2019 40% of new starters will be women

2019/2020 50% of new starters will be women

2020/2021 60% of new starters will be women


List and explain any specific initiatives in place during the selection and recruitment process to attract females to the organisation, at an operational firefighting level.


Positive Action Activity

Attraction and Marketing

Attraction – developing a social media marketing and attraction campaign.  This includes campaign planning and developing the media strategy.  A West Midlands specific web area has been created on the ‘Be a Firefighter’ national portal with localised imagery.

We have identified the need to address the misconceptions about the firefighter role, rethink our communications strategy and overall approach to recruitment.  We need to communicate with right audience with the most engaging messages regarding employment.  By doing this we would expect to boost the diversity of applicants.

Taster Sessions

These sessions provide an insight into the firefighter role.  They are aimed at fostering a sense of confidence in individuals and allow potential candidates the opportunity to make informed decisions about a career in the Fire Service.  The sessions are targeted at our underrepresented groups and are held at key locations across the Service.

Pre-Recruitment Course

Women only course designed to remove or reduce barriers to recruitment.  The course runs over several sessions and involves input on the firefighter role, preparation for recruitment and fitness assessment.

Fitness Sessions

A multi session programme where delegates are offered advice on fitness and nutrition.  They also have the opportunity to have their physical ability measured.  The programme will be focused on sessions where areas of development will be identified and advice given to delegates.  Further Sessions will assess progress and further advice and support.

DICE Stations

Designed to embed equality objectives across the organisation, drive cultural change and capture evidence and good practice.  Stations are audited every 3 months against a set of performance criteria in a range of equality areas including commitment to positive action, approach to community engagement, having trained staff in the diversity awareness and unconscious bias.


How is the organisation addressing the imbalance in the number of females in an operational firefighting role?


We will have a sustained approach to positive action which will drive our recruitment activity.  We will move away from campaign based recruitment, instead focussing on generating a candidate pool that we will nurture through selection.

Our recruitment activity will focus on three phases 1)

Attraction, 2) Selection and 3) Onboarding / Induction.

It is our intention to expand our positive action activity across the three phases, offering support an advice to candidates along their recruitment journey.

Phase 1 Attraction – our marketing strategy will reflect the changing role of the firefighter, focusing on those behaviours and skills that may not previously have been measured during selection. Through our marketing and diverse imagery, we will ensure that we attract a different type of candidate.  Through our internal channels, we will open career paths for existing employees, volunteers, community members and Fire cadets.  We will develop our internal communication strategy to engage with our existing employees, who in turn will engage with our local communities. We will work in partnership with external agencies including job centres and other community and education networks to target our advertising and reach out to those who have not necessarily seen the Fire Service as an employer of choice.

Phase 2 Selection – support will be provided to candidates during the selection phase outlining what can be expected of them during the assessment days.  Fitness sessions will provide information and advice regarding levels of strength and fitness required.

Phase 3 On boarding / Induction – once successful during the recruitment process, candidates will be allocated a buddy / mentor to support them during their early career.


What percentage of the operational workforce are female in the following categories of managerial roles

    • Supervisory
    • Middle management
    • Senior management


    • Supervisory                – 1.5%
    • Middle management   –  0.5%
    • Senior management   –  0.7%


What targets does the organisation have regarding increasing the percentage of operational female managerial staff?


The gender profile is monitored and reported regularly and whilst there are no specific targets for management positions, we expect to see a steady increase in representation


How is the organisation addressing the imbalance in the number of female operational managerial staff?


We are committed to increasing diversity at all levels and increasing the number of women who progress within the organisation.  Through a variety of methods and interventions we encourage, support and nurture employees for progression, as well as provide coaching, mentoring and targeted development for women who are underrepresented in management roles.


Does your organisation allow job sharing or flexible working patterns to encourage recruitment and retention of female operational staff?




List initiatives in place that encourage an inclusive environment and positive culture within the workplace.


We have a range of initiatives to encourage an inclusive environment. All staff receive online equality training which is compulsory plus additional training for managers on managing staff with disabilities, Equality impact assessment and unconscious bias for teams and managers. We have a range of stakeholder groups which raise awareness and consult with the organisation, Affinity (women’s network) Inspire (Black Caribbean network), AFSA (Asian fire service association) , FireOut (LGBT network) , plus a dyslexia support group.    We have an LGBT allies scheme where allies sign up to a pledge and wear a rainbow lanyard as a visible sign of LGBT equality. We are a Disability confident employer and are working towards leader status in this scheme with the introduction of a disability passport scheme and increased awareness and training for staff around mental issues including having trained mental health first aiders.We also have Diversity Inclusion Cohesion and Equality (DICE) stations who record evidence towards gold, silver or bronze standard based on how they engage with Equality issues, their local community and positive action. Currently around a dozen stations and teams are part of this scheme but it will have expanded later this year to eventually cover all teams and stations


State how you evaluate the success/failure of these practices.


The performance of our attraction and selection is monitored through a series of sophisticated technical analysis reports that encompass the whole selection space from attraction to final assessment.  We evaluate our inclusive environment both internally and externally.  Internally via our DICE stations initiative where evidence is submitted and graded bronze, silver or gold and via self-assessment to measure our performance against the Equality Framework for Fire and Rescue as we work towards ‘Excellent ‘status. Externally we are audited by HM inspectors, Stonewall, and top 50 inclusive employers.

If you have any queries about this email, please contact me.  Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision please write to The Public Relations Department, West Midlands Fire Service, 99 Vauxhall Road, Birmingham, B7 4HW

Further information concerning Freedom of Information requests can be found on the Information Commissioner website at either the following link: or at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, SK9 5AF.