Culture of “misogyny and and sexism” at Dorset & Wiltshire fire service: Report

AN “underlying culture of misogyny and sexism” remains in the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS), an independent report has said.

The conclusions of a seven-month independent review of the workplace culture at the service, ordered after press reports of women experiencing misogyny and sexist behaviour, has been published.

Led by retired chief fire officer Alex Johnson, the review team interviewed 200 DWFRS employees – including firefighters – between March and September this year.

The report was commissioned by DWFRS Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell after claims of misogyny and sexist behaviour surfaced in February.

Now, the team has published its report into the culture at DWFRS, revealing misogyny and sexism, including one staff member reporting an incident where a colleague “was offered money to stir (a female colleague’s) … tea with his ****”.

Other comments by DWFRS staff featured in the report include:

  • “One station put a sign up saying ‘all genders’ on the lades’ loo; inappropriately taking the Mickey, which isn’t right”
  • “… a man had used the ladies’ loo and left it in a disgusting state. Men just don’t respect our desire for some private space.”
  • “There are some watches that women wouldn’t go to. If a woman finds a good watch and station manager, then that’s where they tend to stay and don’t go for promotion.”
  • “Being a friendly girl is interpreted as you wanting attention and perhaps more than just friends.”
  • “I left a WhatsApp group because I wasn’t comfortable with what was being said.”
  • “I have had to put up with numerous discriminatory remarks about my ethnicity.”
  • “I just wanted to be treated like a man. I’m a fireman, I wanted men’s clothes. I didn’t go for promotion because I didn’t want anyone to think I’d got it because I am a woman.”
  • “People feel they have to become resilient and immune to the sexist and racist comments and HR don’t always respond to complaints.”
  • “The organisation doesn’t deal with inappropriate behaviour.”

A number of recommendations are made in the report, including steps to increase the recruitment of under-respresented groups, including women, as well as addressing issues with facilities and welfare, and mandatory face-to-face equality, diversity and inclusion training.

READ MORE: Click here to read the full report (opens in a new window)
READ MORE: Probe into ‘inappropriate images’ in fire service completed

Responding to the report, CFO Ansell said he was grateful to those who came forward to take part.

“This shows the desire and commitment of our staff to further strengthen our culture so that every individual feels respected, valued, and safe in their workplace,” he said.

Speaking of the review team, he added: “You have also identified some concerning experiences within your report, and I am truly sorry that these have occurred.

“I personally found some of the experiences of our staff were uncomfortable for me to read and although we have much in place, I can see that we have not always got things right and this must and will change.

“There is no place for inappropriate behaviour in our organisation and I am fully committed to driving our culture forward positively.”

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