Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Girls fight fire with girl power

One in three girls could be set to ditch traditional female careers in favour of those normally associated with men, a new survey commissioned by Communities and Local Government's 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Careers' campaign has found.

These findings were released yesterday at the start of a campaign that aims to raise awareness among girls aged 14-16 of firefighting as a career of choice. Although there has been some encouraging improvements over recent years in the representation of women in the Fire and Rescue Service, currently, just over 3 per cent of firefighters in England are women.

The new 'teen' campaign is part of the on going campaign 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Careers' which aims to change perceptions about career opportunities in the Fire and Rescue Service and reach a wider, more diverse audience to ensure that the Fire and Rescue Service has the skills needed for the modern world.

The survey found that over a third (36 per cent) of girls surveyed dream of having a stereotypically male job, such as fire-fighting, joining the armed forces or becoming a footballer. Almost 14 per cent of girls admitted that they had chosen a career path not usually associated with women because they didn't want a job that was traditionally seen as a 'girlie' job.

The poll of 2,000 girls aged between 14-16 revealed that a police officer is the most popular stereotypically 'male' career choice for teenage girls. Other male dominated jobs include becoming a professional footballer, joining the armed forces, and becoming a firefighter, electrician, plumber or pilot.

Fire Minister Shahid Malik said:

"A career choice is a big decision and young people need to be aware of all the opportunities available to them. The new campaign targeted at teenage girls aims to make girls aware of the benefits of being a firefighter before they are committed to other career paths."

Responding to the findings of the survey Dany Cotton (deputy assistant commissioner for London Fire Brigade and member of Networking Women in the Fire and Rescue Service) said:

"In the Fire and Rescue Service women firefighters do exactly the same job as men. Being a firefighter isn't about being exceptionally strong. Nor does a firefighter only fight fires. Firefighters have to be good communicators, sensitive to people's needs and vulnerabilities when responding for example to road traffic collisions or explaining fire prevention measures in people's homes. Girls should no longer worry about whether they would be able to succeed in a career that has traditionally been dominated by men. I did it. So can they."

The survey also found that:

  • 81 per cent of the girls polled think women should be able to do every job; and,
  • 86 per cent think that women should be treated exactly the same as men if they do a 'stereotypically male' job.

But it's not all plain sailing for girls when it comes to choosing their career. The survey found that while almost two thirds of parents had not tried to talk their daughters out of their career choice; 26 per cent of girls surveyed said that their parents were worried because their career choice was stereotypically associated with men.

For information on careers in the Fire Service visit: www.direct.gov.uk/extraordinary (external link).

Notes to editors

1. Onepoll.com surveyed 2,100 girls aged 14-16 years-old between 20-27 October 2009.

2. Top ten jobs girls dream of doing that may be considered as stereotypically male dominated jobs:

  1. Police Officer
  2. Footballer
  3. Soldier
  4. Firefighter
  5. Electrician
  6. Plumber
  7. Astronaut
  8. Politician
  9. Racing driver
  10. Pilot

Women make up 3.3 per cent of all operational staff (ie wholetime and retained (on-call) firefighters combined). They comprise 3.1 per cent of wholetime firefighters and 3.8 per cent of on-call firefighters.

For further information on the 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Careers' campaign and case studies of female firefighters please contact:

Mary Price, 020 7261 8860, mary.price@coi.gsi.gov.uk
Joanna Smith, 020 7261 8487, joanna.smith@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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