Of our 2,500 employees who hold fire and emergency roles, only 26 percent are women. The number of leadership roles held by women is just 19 percent.
Participation in roles is skewed, with heavy biases in traditionally feminine and masculine roles. Women are more likely to perform non field-based roles, whereas men are more likely to undertake action-oriented operational roles. We are committing to 50 percent of fire and emergency roles and leadership roles being held by women.
Achieving gender equality within fire and emergency leadership roles will:
- better reflect the community we serve
- improve service delivery and innovation via a diversity in thinking and perspectives, and
- provide greater opportunities for our staff to realise their full potential.
We must facilitate a change in our culture to become a positive and fair environment for all staff – regardless of gender.
Setting targets will help provide us with the necessary focus to improve the gender balance, clarify accountabilities and demonstrate commitment to deliver.
We have developed a three year action plan to help us address gender inequality in our fire and emergency leadership roles and assist us to remove identified barriers.
Our plan has been framed into six areas of primary focus:
- Improving our Systems
- Leadership and Advocacy
- Development and Support
- Flexibility First
- Governance and Measurement
Culture is not a stand-alone area of focus as it prevails all themes and is critical to successful change.
The Action Plan will help implement the Victorian Government's recently released Emergency Management Diversity and Inclusion Framework: Respect and Inclusion for All.
In 2015, we initiated a project to better understand the barriers, explore the issues and seek improvement in gender diversity in fire and emergency leadership roles across our department and our partner agencies Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and VicForests.
The research was conducted by an independent research team led by Women's Health In the North, Women's Health Goulburn North East and Monash University.
We held workshops with staff in April and May 2016 to share the outcomes of the research, along with getting staff input for strategies to improve gender equity in fire and emergency roles.