Sadiq Khan and Sarah Brown support London Fire Brigade social campaign targeting 'harm' of sexism

The 'harm' caused by sexist representation of firefighters needs to end, according to the London Fire Brigade amid a new campaign to tackle the issue, supported by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and campaigner Sarah Brown.

Dany Cotton: London Fire Brigade Commissioner supporting the campaign
Dany Cotton: London Fire Brigade Commissioner supporting the campaign

Launching its #FirefightingSexism campaign this week across social media, the LFB is aiming to attract key influencers to champion the message that the term 'fireman' is outdated and harms diversity in the service.

Glenn Sebright, head of comms at LFB, told PRWeek: "We want to reinvigorate a conversation that’s been going on for too long and to educate all those who aren’t aware of the harm that using the term 'fireman' really can do.

"One of the reasons women don’t think about firefighting as a career is because they grow up with the term fireman and the perception it’s a job for men.

"That perception is so often reinforced by the use of the term fireman by a range of media. For that reason, it’s also a key objective in the Brigade’s 10-year inclusion strategy; to proactively engage advertising agencies, journalists, publishers and broadcasters to improve the representation of firefighting as a diverse and inclusive industry in the media."

The first woman firefighter joined LFB in 1982, after the UK's first female firefighter in 1976, and the current Commissioner Dany Cotton – who officially launched the new messaging at the Women of the Year Awards on Monday (16 Oct) – started training as a firefighter when she was 18.

Social media started buzzing with content around the #FirefightingSexism hashtag, while Cotton also appeared on the BBC’s The One Show, ITV’s Lorraine, and BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

High profile supporters include TV presenter Christine Bleakley, Paralympian Claire Harvey and Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.

Writer and campaigner Sarah Brown tweeted: "A simple request from @LondonFire’s chief Dany Cotton to say ‘firefighter’ not ‘fireman’ - the least we can do in return for the amazing response to the Grenfell blaze and for all the emergency responders who serve everyday #firefightingsexism." 

Meanwhile, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted: "Discrimination has no place in London. I applaud @LondonFire for breaking down barriers for women in the workplace #FirefightingSexism."

 LFB employees have taken to Twitter to share video clips of themselves backing the campaign to use the term firefighter, rather than fireman.

LFB also created a Facebook frame, which can be used on all digital media platforms, and is urging people to post a selfie in support of the campaign.

The social media drive aligns with LFB’s new recruitment campaign, Firefighter. It Means So Much More, which aims to attract more women and people from BAME groups to work in the service.

This week’s comms launch is the first phase of the #FirefightingSexism campaign running through to Christmas, and will be moving into a second "more challenging" phase early in 2018, added Sebright.

Sebright told PRWeek the campaign would run "until we stop reading the word fireman on the front page of a screen because the editor thinks it fits on the page and when the makers of Fireman Sam change the brand to Firefighter Sam".

"We want women especially to understand what an inclusive organisation we are," explained Sebright.

"Children learn language and form perceptions by the age of five, so if we stop using the term now we’ll have eradicated it in a generation."


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