Making a difference – Women’s Development Initiatives and Coaching & Mentoring in the Fire and Rescue Sector

Women to Work is a business with social aims founded by Emma Shute and Jenny Pollock. Emma and Jenny started working with the Fire & Rescue Sector in 2013 – here they provide an insight into their work and what’s been happening in the world of women’s development and coaching & mentoring.

“We began working with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) in 2013 running a mentor training programme with around 40 mentors with some candidates electing to take an ILM Award to give them a recognised mentoring qualification. Knowledge sharing, building internal capability and enabling individuals to reach their professional potential are important aspects of the work myself and Emma do, and we are passionate about creating workplaces that are good for everyone who work there” said Jenny.

Their Women’s Development Programme “Successfully Managing your Work Life Through Change” also for SYFR is testament to Emma and Jenny’s passion and is having some positive impact. Francesca Edmonds, T/HR Manager – Organisational Development at SYFR states

“The programme has lead to developments such as operational skills workshops, focused on female operational incident commanders, to practice, build confidence and stretch their capabilities within an incident command setting. In addition SYFR has identified a number of opportunities to support female development. These include linking in with wider national women’s development organisations and developing information and training, in relation to the awareness of all managers, around real and perceived barriers for those from underrepresented groups within the organisation and how managers can help and support individuals to overcome these.”

The programme was delivered over four months and the research report wasdisseminated at the Women’s Development Conference, in February 2015, attended by over 85 men and women from 28 different fire and rescue services. Opening the conference, CFO James Courtney of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said,

“We believe that this is the first event of its kind and dare I say it, possibly, the most important gender focused event ever to have been held in the UK fire sector.”

The programme had a two stranded approach; to support individual women within the organisation to develop a mind-set, network, toolkit and set of resources to use positively to manage their personal development and work life, both in the immediate and longer term; and to support the development of the organisation itself to identify organisational and personal barriers, enablers and solutions to women’s development in the service. The resulting SYFR research report that focused on the barriers and importantly the solutions to the barriers that women face has been shared to inspire others, and to have a positive impact in the workplace.It’s great to be able to report on such positive progress.

And that’s not all.

Women to Work have continued their work within the Fire & Rescue Sector delivering a “Managing Your Work Life” session for Humberside Fire & Rescue as part of their 2017 International Women’s Day event as well as three “Women Achieving Together” sessions as part of the 2016 conference held at Staffordshire Fire & Rescue “The Contribution Women Make to a Safer Community”. These sessions captured more research and inspired more thought provoking ideas and this work continued to be developed at the 2017 Conference.

Plans inspired by this work have now been developed with Jules King vice chair of Women in the Fire Service UK (WFS) and a women’s development programme “Successfully Managing Your Work Life” was launched earlier this year at London Fire Brigade and Humberside Fire & Rescue Service and dates are being finalised for more programmes across the UK later this year. Jules is excited to get the initiative underway and believes it will have a positive impact on women in the emergency services.

“I’m really keen to work with fire and rescues services across the country to develop this exciting initiative ” says Jules.

Do you know of a fire and rescue service that could be a host? Are you a woman in the emergency services who would like to be on the programme?

These are exciting times for Women’s Development – for more information about the work Women to Work do contact Emma Shute and Jenny Pollock.