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Sexist firefighter cliches put women off joining, says London brigade boss

2:08 pm, 21st August 2018

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said she was concerned that media stereotypes were making women think the job was not for them.

According to a YouGov survey commissioned by the mayor of London, a quarter of women think men are better equipped to be firefighters.

Just 7% of women thought the same about police officers, however.

LFB said its own research showed women thought firefighting was a “very masculine environment” and a “sexist field”.

It is backing proposals by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban sexist adverts.

Ms Cotton, who was in Grenfell Tower last year with her crews, criticised the recent series of ITV2’s Love Island and its “fireman challenge”.

Male contestants in the reality show stripped down and pretended to save a female contestant from danger.

“When popular shows like Love Island roll out every offensive cliche possible with their so-called ‘fireman challenge’, it reinforces the misconception that all firefighters are musclebound men,” Ms Cotton said.

“No wonder so many young women are put off by that.

“I’m especially concerned about how many young people think firefighting is for men.”

The brigade has also criticised a Suzuki advert featuring Ant and Dec which mentioned “fireman training”, and an advert for Harpic toilet cleaner in which female characters objectified a male firefighter.

Ms Cotton has urged 40 news editors to curb their usage of sexist language, advising “advertisers, journalists and marketers” to stop using “lazy cliches”.

She said: “It was 30 years ago that people were shocked to see women police officers and it’s frankly embarrassing that the public are still shocked to see women firefighters today.

“The armed forces and the police force have all been enriched by having women better represented across their ranks and it’s time the fire and rescue service caught up.”

In a consultation launched in May, the ASA proposed that adverts “must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. Results will be out later this year.

LFB has just over 5,000 operational firefighters, around 300 of whom are women.