Including Women in the Fire Service

A Strategy Toolkit for Fire Departments

Section 2


Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation. —Doris Kearns Goodwin


Define: Leadership is the act of guiding others to accomplish a goal. Leaders also “influence, motivate and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success to organizations to which they are members” (McShane et al., 2015 p.298). There are different perspectives to leadership, including transformation or managerial. Each perspective has different behaviours including directive, supportive, participative, or achievement oriented.

Leadership Inadequacies: Development of a strong diversity and inclusion program within a fire service must start at the top with its leaders. According to the Insights study half of all women and one-third of all men reported some form of negative interaction with leadership (p.38). Additionally, 43.2% of women and 30.1% of men reported experiencing acts of harassment and violence from leadership during their career (p. 40). These statistics are evidence of a broader issue of weak leadership development and training that needs to be addressed.

Leadership Expectations: Leaders are expected to listen and take action on harassment and violence when employees speak up. They are also expected to embrace and exemplify diversity and inclusion principles and challenge discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Leaders are also expected to cultivate an environment where they themselves are held accountable for identifying and removing systemic barriers. Inadequate commitment to these principles will destabilize fire service morale: If leaders do not practice what they advocate, their staff will not have the motivation and commitment to drive positive changes in the workplace.

Need for Training: Leaders, especially first-level officers, must be given the opportunity to continuously improve their communication and leadership skills through mentorship, workshops, training, and education. Leadership training must begin at the recruit level instead of relying on the typical use of ‘acting up’ when a member of the department is considering promotion. Part of “walking the talk” is to demonstrate to new candidates what diversity and inclusion means to that department. This includes how the hiring process is conducted, the expectations of department members regardless of rank, and the consequences if members break diversity and inclusion policies.

Leadership Development: Leadership development requires significant time and formal resources and is often displaced due to other training requirements, complacency, or budget constraints. The Insights study found that firefighters are confident in officers’ skills in managing complex emergency scenes and creating a safe work environment, but firefighters see a need for additional training in interpersonal conflict, as well as discrimination and harassment.

The Insights Study also found that leaders and employees do not share the same view on the effectiveness of human rights and anti-harassment training. It is significant that overall, all groups surveyed had a low assessment of this type of training:

Further investigation into what is causing these disconnects as well as more research and development of fire-specific training in these topics is needed.

2Best Practices

Treat all employees as valued members regardless of rank, gender, race, tenure, etc.

Ensure fire service leaders are trained in unconscious bias. During these sessions, ensure that fire service-relevant scenarios are included so participants understand the effect of behaviors already happening in the workplace. Additional training can also be outsourced or adopted in train-the-trainer programs.

Develop standards for transparency and accountability (e.g., creating and enforcing a Code of Conduct, establishing an Integrity Commissioner to provide advice and assist in complaint resolution and education).

Review policies and procedures with a diversity lens (e.g., inclusive and neutral language) with human resources personnel and legal teams.

Make leadership accountable for the fair treatment of women and other underrepresented groups.

Adopt mandatory conflict resolution training for all officers, including on how to deal with discrimination and harassment.

Begin leadership training as a component of firefighter skills development, rather than having leaders learn on the job.


Step 1: Size-up with SWOT Analysis

As discussed in more detail in Section 1: Introduction to Change, your fire service should take the time to evaluate its policies around leadership in consideration of your diversity and inclusion goals and targets.

Undertake a SWOT Analysis to identify your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relevant to existing leadership requirements necessary to align with your fire service’s diversity and inclusion policies. When considering external factors compare your needs and resources against those of the larger corporation (i.e., municipality).

When considering learning and development to meet your leadership needs, use the SWOT analysis to identify how your fire service is set up to implement its diversity and inclusion policies.

Helpful to achieving objectivesHarmful to achieving objectives
Internal DriversHealthy learning & development budgetNo suitable trainers
Catalogue of leadership coursesNo available resources
Available subject matter expertsTraining material outdated
Facilities to conduct trainingTraining material not approved
Training material not suitable
External DriversSubject matter experts availableTraining consultants not readily available
Access to resourcesTraining consultants/instructors too expensive
Access to trainersTraining material not available or outdated
Access to training material

Step 2: Build a Plan with Objectives

Based on the themes from the SWOT Analysis, begin to build your leadership learning and development priorities while aligned with your fire service’s Vision, Mission and Values in consideration of existing Diversion & Inclusion Policies. To begin, identify your fire service’s objectives using the Smart Goal method.

Smart Goals
Using the SMART method, detail fire service goals related to your organization’s Leadership’s Learning and Development priorities identified during the SWOT analysis.

Example 1:
WHO – Delta Fire Service
WHAT – Identify list of training modules, sources, budget
WHERE / WHEN – Delta Hall #6, by March 31, 2022
STANDARD (MEASURABLE) – Identify/prioritize training modules, resources and budget.
Objective 1: The Delta Fire Hall #6 will identify and prioritize Leadership Training Modules, including sources and budget by March 31, 2022.

Example 2:
WHO – Delta Fire Service
WHAT – Create a Leadership Training Program
WHERE / WHEN – Fire Hall 12 – October 2022
STANDARD (MEASURABLE) – Identify goals and objectives including training material for Leadership Training Program
Objective 2: The Delta Fire Hall #12 will Develop a Leadership Training Program, outlining learning objectives and goals, including material and anticipated budget for training its Leadership Team by October 31, 2022.

Step 3: Implement your Plan

Based on your organization’s leadership learning and development needs, build your implementation plan.

This will include an outline of the program, budget details, responsibilities, and timing.

Using Objective 2 from above, the steps involved with creating an implementation plan are listed:


Leadership Development Program


Identify Leadership Training Modules

Budget / Resources:

People, time. (approx. cost)

Procedures / Actions:

Confirm Leadership Training Modules

Develop Training Description

Develop Training Context

Develop Training Objectives, including audience

Develop Learning Outcomes

Develop Training Design Considerations

Develop Instructional Methods of Delivery

Identify Transfer of Learning

Develop Evaluation Scheme

Identify Variables Measured in Training Evaluation

Identify Vendors (if required)

Develop Budget


Human Resources: Support with training modules/resources and materials

Leadership: Attend training

Trainers: Provide subject matter expertise

Fire Chief: Approval of Training, resources and budget


6-9 months

Step 4: Evaluating the Plan’s Performance

Your fire service has created a plan for a leadership learning and development program. Now it is time to assess its performance. Continuing with the previous example (Objective 2), the implementation performance can be assessed using a simplified scorecard method. Recall, when applying the scorecard, you are assessing your organization against a baseline.

Performance Measurement

ObjectivesTraffic LightOutcomes
1. Identified Leadership and Training ModulesA comprehensive list of learning and development modules developed
2. Outline training description, context, details, etc. / per training moduleNot all details are complete at this time
3. Detailed budget complete for training modulesDetailed budget found, awaiting approval.
Core ValueTraffic Light123Comments
PeopleXTraining modules developed in alignment with corporate diversity and inclusion policies.
CultureXApproved training modules developed in-line with latest policies
DiversityXTraining modules require further review for inclusion of marginalized groups

1 - Exceeds Expectations
2 - Meets Expectations
3 - Fails Expectations

Overall: 2
Overall Leadership Training Programs have been identified, and tentatively developed. Some work required to include marginalized groups.

Step 6: Continuous Improvement

Thus far, we have walked through creating a leadership learning and development program including its objectives & goals while building an implementation plan based on said goals. These are aligned with your fire service’s diversity and inclusion policies, and finally we conducted a performance assessment against the implementation plan. At this point, your fire service will understand what is working against what is not and be able to create a continuous improvement plan.

Following through with the leadership learning and development Objective 2 and its implementation plan, a plan adjustment can look like the example shown below.

1. Detail a budget for each of the Leadership Training ModulesDevelop a detailed budget including hard costs, soft costs, time and materials as well as any other budgetary details concerning external consultants required.
2. Review Leadership Training Modules to ensure they cover aspects of inclusivity, including women and marginalized groupsDevelop the program being sensitive to women and marginalized groups. Ensure they include best practices and in-line with Diversity & Inclusion policies.
3. ......