Including Women in the Fire Service

A Strategy Toolkit for Fire Departments

Strength lies in differences, not in similarities. —Stephen R. Covey


Purpose of this toolkit:

This toolkit is intended for professional firefighters, fire service management, union leaders, and others who are looking to reduce barriers to diversity and inclusion in the fire service.

This toolkit helps users understand and reduce the barriers women and other underrepresented groups face in the fire service. The toolkit has been designed to share best practices in aligning your fire service’s recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion strategies with diversity and inclusion policies. The toolkit also offers practical modules and templates to assist you with creating implementation plans aligned with your fire service’s diversity and inclusion policy. These tools will help with conducting a size-up through a SWOT analysis, followed with creating objectives using SMART goals, to developing a comprehensive implementation plan that can be measured for its performance, and further strategies with developing a continuous improvement plan.

Goals of this toolkit:

  • To offer tools to fire departments and leadership teams to build equitable and inclusive practices in leadership, recruitment, hiring, retention, and career advancement.
  • To build partnerships between firefighters and leadership teams.
  • To develop a better understanding of barriers embedded in practices, culture, and initiatives in the workplace.
  • To assist fire service stakeholders, unions, and human resource managers in implementing relevant and practical strategies that can be implemented by Ontario fire departments.
  • To address why there is a need for change towards more diversity and inclusion in the fire service.

How to use this toolkit:

This toolkit is divided into key areas that may need greater attention in your fire service:

  • Section 1: Overview: Introduction to Change
  • Section 2: Leadership
  • Section 3: Recruitment
  • Section 4: Hiring
  • Section 5: Employee Retention
  • Section 6: Promotion
  • Section 7: Key Takeaways
  • Section 8: Next Steps
  • Section 9: Appendix of Documents and Policy Examples

Each section contains the following elements:

  1. Define: defines the area of concern (e.g., what is recruitment?)
  2. Identify: identifies the barriers or issues women and other underrepresented groups face in the fire service (e.g., tokenism).
  3. Best Practices: a space dedicated to providing examples of industry best practices (e.g., structured interview hiring strategies).
  4. Application: a workspace that includes these five steps:
    1. Conducting a size-up by applying a SWOT analysis
    2. Creating a plan using SMART objectives
    3. Implementing the plan
    4. Evaluating the plan’s performance
    5. Identifying continuous improvement
  5. Resources: list of resources including websites, or text material (e.g., policies, plans) to assist with understanding the material and creating your organization’s policies and strategies.
  6. How-To Modules: specific modules that present the knowledge of our subject matter experts in fire departments. Please check back as additional toolkit modules will be added over time as fire organizations share their success stories with us.

To obtain powerful results, encourage dialogue and participation from all levels of your organization - staff at different points in their careers will have different and valuable viewpoints. Please note that a new hire may feel less comfortable speaking out for fear of reprisal. A consultation process that protects anonymity may increase participation in this regard and provide a clearer and more useful picture.

Note: Although several aspects of employment law are referenced throughout this toolkit, it is not intended as legal advice. Before proceeding with program implementation or any changes to or creation of policy and procedure, each fire department should consult with its own legal counsel, human resources personnel, and union executive (if applicable) to determine appropriate courses of action.