Academics are not the experts, managers are the experts but what fitting-in can do is to help managers to use their expertise.
Theory without practice is a waste - Practice without theory may just be dumb!
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In April 2009 Sarah and I were invited to speak to Chief Fire Officers and the Swedish Civil Contingency Agency (MSB) about equality for women firefighters - we were asked to tell it as we saw it and we did!
The two day event was a major success and we wish all the participants success in their attempts to increase the amount of women who are firefighters in the Swedish Fire Service. They have a long way to go (Stockholm at the time had no women firefighters) but they are keen to address this.
See the programme
See the powerpoint - "Why is equality and diversity in the fire service so difficult to achieve"
Ask for more information on Swedish Fire Service
This is what the MSB said about our help
"Fitting-in with their unique insight into real world fire service culture and a firm theoretical base in academia provided the MSB (The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency) with invaluable expert advice and assistance in developing a national action plan targeted at increasing equality and diversity in the Swedish fire service."
This successful event was followed by a national conference on equality and the employment of women in the fire service. Brand 2010 was an extremely well attended event and Sarah and I provided a keynote speech and did three back to back workshops on the topic of employing women as firefighters.
Subsequently the Swedish Government have produced a programme for action
Notably this programme has established the concept of a fire station for all at Lund, RäddningstjänstenSyd
"This station will have a good gender balance, visible diversity and a working environment free from harassment and discrimination. This example will inspire other municipalities to take measures to achieve the same thing.
This example is taken from Dr David Baigent, who participated in the working group meeting in Stockholm, and it is based on experience from equality and diversity work in the rescue services in the United Kingdom. The basic premise is that it is more or less impossible to change all municipal rescue services at once. Initiatives that are too sparse and too widely spread can actually make this work more difficult. Instead, it’s better to invest in selected locations, in order to achieve good representation of women and minority groups there. All the energy of equality and diversity work is invested in this or these stations. This or these stations are also are also closely monitored in order to assess the results of this investment. In this way, the project can ‘test the water’, and measures to increase equality and diversity can be evaluated, while also creating a good example that can be used in changing people’s perceptions of who can be firefighters.
Possible activities include extensive staff training, support for renovation of premises, contributions to equipment purchasing, and coaching of managers." (MSB2009)
This project grows in strenght and Sarah and I continue to be involved