The Feminist and the Firefighter

Sounds like an unlikely combination but read on...

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Whenever I am working or an organisation where the issue of gender equality is not recognised, as in “What problem? We have no problem? Women can progress if they have the required attributes,” I am reminded of a conversation I had with the Chief Officer of my husband’s Fire & Rescue Service in 1986. (That’s my husband in the picture, trying not to laugh).

We were at the passing out parade at the end of his training period. At that time it was almost unheard of to have women as fire-fighters and they were universally called FireMEN (language has a role to play). I was there with our daughter, aged 4, and son aged 6 months. The baby was in his buggy and the chief fire officer came up and made some friendly comments and then tickled our son under his chin and asked if he was going to grow up to be a fireman like his dad.

I answered on his behalf, that probably not but that our daughter might be interested.

A look of horror crept over his face. He had been caught with a feminist. Undaunted, I ploughed on:

Why, I asked him, don’t you have women in the brigade? Surely with modern technology, etc. it is no longer an issue of sheer strength?

He looked at me, slightly ashen faced; this was a conversation he did not want to have. I smiled encouragingly.

Well, he blustered, If they had the correct physical attributes of course they could join.

Oh, I replied innocently, do you mean like a penis?

I was teasing him but the point was taken. A lot of jobs, especially in the 80s were apparently open to women but closer inspection revealed that you really needed a male appendage to get one. All the attributes and skills required were very male; it was all about being male. That was the yardstick by which women were judged. If you could be one of the guys you might fit. No wonder that was the era of power dressing and shoulder pads. We had to be like men to get ahead that we even adopted the pin stripe suits!

In many ways, of course, it has changed for the better, but there are days when I think not much has changed at all. Gender equality is good for everyone yet still we have a lack of women in significant senior positions across the board. In a later post I’ll be talking more about why gender equality is a force for good for all, but in the meantime, do check out Avivah Wittenberg-Cox ; she has some pithy things to say on this topic and some good advice to share.

Are you looking for a one day programme for women to boost their confidence levels and add to your existing training portfolio? Do check out RenewYou, a tried and tested day for women.

Jane C Woods

Women's Personal Development Specialist - Changing People, -

Hi, I’m Jane C Woods and I have an absolute passion for helping women achieve success in their lives. Be it the glass ceiling, the crystal maze, or very personal issues, I’m all about helping women achieve to their full potential and live the way they want to without being carbon copies of men. But I’m not about putting men down in order for women to get ahead, there’s plenty of room; I just want the guys to shifty up a bit… If my face looks familiar it's because I love Psychologies magazine (I've been buying it since the very first issue, such a good resource) and it's the only place I choose to advertise my courses. I write on women’s issues on my blog,, and am regularly featured in magazines, and on radio, but I’m probably best known for RenewYou. RenewYou is my one day personal development course for women. We have an international network of experienced, specialist women licensed to deliver it and empower women across the globe. Our goal is to reach one million women. It’s a big goal but… In 2013 we started with a single RenewYou specialist, me. Now you can find a RenewYou Courses across the UK, in the USA, Canada, Greece, Bangkok, Pakistan, South Africa, Belgium, with new countries being added all the time. My dream was to create a thriving and caring business on ethical, and dare I say, feminine terms, with a real community spirit of help and encouragement. And it’s actually happening with the support, expertise, and enthusiasm of my wonderful trainers. I think, (apart from my two lovely kids, a daughter and a son) that it’s probably my proudest achievement to date. Wonderful Changing People Women: One of the joys and privileges of my work is that I’ve connected with some really inspirational and wonderful women – from politics to entertainment to academia. They include: TV presenter, house fixer and matchmaker Sarah Beeny Amazing entrepreneur Sam Roddick of Coco de Mer Outspoken and entertaining academic Mary Beard Politicians like Siobhan Benita and Natalie Bennett Ex BBC broadcaster Miriam O’Reilly who bravely took on the might of the BBC- and triumphed A very rare interview with Sarah Montague, of the influential BBC Radio 4 Today programme I hope you like the posts and I hope they are helpful. Live life to the max and never hide your light under any bushels!