Progress of Action 4.9

Action 4.9: Demonstrate progress towards reaching the government’s commitment of 400 women career firefighters in FRV.

Action objective: FRV values a diverse and inclusive workforce, reflecting the community they serve.

Lead agency: FRV

Year Two to Five Plan (November 2021) completion dateYear Two to Five Plan (updated May 2023) completion dateAgency reported status as at 30 June 2023
December 2025December 2025In progress - minor delays

Context

This action requires FRV to progress towards 400 women career firefighters. However, FRV has taken a broader view of the action’s implementation and is focussing on creating a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace to support the attraction and retention of women firefighters through the implementation of the GEAP and activities to identify, understand and address barriers in current FRV recruitment and employment practices. These activities include:

  • progress towards 400 women career firefighters
  • developing and implementing the GEAP
  • targeted recruitment (developing campaigns and engagement to raise awareness of career firefighting among under-represented groups, including women)
  • development and implementation of policies and initiatives to support and respect the needs of women firefighters across all stages of their employee lifecycle
  • supporting women firefighters to grow, develop their skills and progress their careers.

By delivering these activities, FRV intends to demonstrate progress towards the aspirational target.

Progress summary

1. Progress towards 400 women career firefighters

Figure 4 outlines the current women career firefighters, as at 30 June 2023.[62] This data shows a slight increase in women career firefighters since the inception of the FSR.

Figure 4: Total women firefighters in FRV - 1 July 2020 to 1 July 2023

  • Download' Figure 4: Total women firefighters in FRV - 1 July 2020 to 1 July 2023'

Since the inception of the Fire Services Reform (and establishment of FRV), FRV has increased the number of women in Leading fire fighter, Level 1 and Level 2 firefighter roles, with slight reductions in women in Station Officer, Qualified firefighter and Level 3 firefighter roles. A detailed comparison between 2020 and 2023 is provided in Table 17.

Table 17: Women in firefighting roles – comparative summary 2020-2023

Rank1 July 20201 July 20211 July 20221 July 2023
Deputy Commissioner1111
Assistant Chief Fire Officer1111
Commander5555
Instructor2222
Senior Station Officer8888
Station Officer12111111
Leading firefighter63636377
Qualified firefighter50505046
Firefighter Level 31212128
Firefighter Level 2082423
Firefighter Level 10178
Total154162184190

2. Developing and implementing the Gender Equality Action Plan 2022-2025

FRV’s GEAP was completed and submitted to the Gender Equality Commission in August 2022 and implementation of the plan has commenced. The GEAP includes actions to increase gender representation across all levels of the organisation and is a key aspect of delivery against the Year Two to Five Plan Action 4.6.

3. Targeted recruitment – developing campaigns and engagement to raise awareness of career firefighting among under-represented groups, including women

FRV has established a Women’s Support Coordinator Network (Network). The Network aims to improve the attraction and retention of women firefighters by identifying opportunities, understanding and addressing barriers and reviewing policies and procedures.[63]

The women in senior leadership roles at FRV and lead this Network are considering activities that will deliver against the following defined outcomes:

  • increase women applicants
  • increased pass rates of women recruits[64]
  • develop tailored pregnancy support for women firefighters
  • retain 100 per cent of women firefighters who take pregnancy leave
  • overall increase in the number of women firefighters and retention at all ranks from Deputy Commissioner to Recruit
  • increased collaboration across FRV and skill exchange during alternative duty placements
  • increase support and career satisfaction of all female firefighters
  • receive positive feedback from women firefighters at all levels of leadership.

Given the early stages of the Network's inception, comprehensive data against these outcomes is not yet available. FSIM encourages FRV to collect and analyse this data and drivers, as it will inform continuous improvement across FRV’s various attraction, retention and promotion programs. Collection of diversity and inclusion data will also help address the data risk highlighted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22, noting that collection of this data will need to be prioritised in order to measure the success of diversity and inclusion activities.[65]

Outside of the Network, FRV has also initiated a number of projects to support the connection of women, both within the firefighting service and with external groups who provide a pathway to highlight firefighting as a career choice for women. Initial activities include:

  • building relationships with women-focused organisations such as the Australian Institute of Sport and Girl Guides Victoria
  • attending 14 career days at schools with a diversity of staff (i.e., women, men and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds)
  • delivering Women’s Support Information Sessions to increase visibility of women firefighters at all recruitment touchpoints
  • developing physical development programs (i.e., running and strength-training programs) targeted at women firefighters.

4. Development and implementation of policies and initiatives tailored to women firefighters

FRV’s intended focus in this space is to support and respect the needs of women firefighters across all stages of their employee lifecycle. Initiated programs include:

  • implementation of Sanitary Items Policy and personal hygiene bags at all stations
  • development of a draft pregnancy policy (including additional support for miscarriage) to provide clarity for both firefighters and managers to ensure a consistent experience regardless of location
  • development of a draft menopause policy and breastfeeding policy (in draft).
  • establishment of women firefighter forums
  • development of women specific health services and monitoring via the FRV Health Model
  • updated maternity wear range to include various options and styles.

As noted in the targeted recruitment activities above, data against these programs (e.g., uptake and impact) are not yet available, however FSIM encourages FRV to collect and analyse program data to inform a continuous improvement approach.

5. Promotion: Supporting women firefighters to grow and develop their skills and progress their careers

In the reporting period, FRV developed a formalised process for assigning alternative duties to firefighters during pregnancy or other pregnancy-related circumstances. This process includes providing remote tasking at specialty departments centrally located to promote accessibility to regionally based women and developing “return to work” pathways for women firefighters who have taken parental leave to return to operational roles.

Findings

FSIM finds action 4.9 is progressing. Based on the most recent data for women career firefighters and as noted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22, given FRV’s current recruitment approaches and turnover levels, FSIM finds that reaching 400 women firefighters by 2025 continues to be unachievable.[66] However, FSIM recognises that FRV has taken considerable steps in Year Three of the reform to initiate and develop evidence-based workforce planning and is building systems and processes to capture data for better decision-making (e.g. GEAP implementation and the program of work under the Network, targeted recruitment activities and review, amendment and implementation of relevant policies). Prioritising data collection and analysis of these initiatives will be needed to inform FRV’s continuous improvement approach and to enable FRV to make a step-change towards the aspirational target of 400 women career firefighters.



Footnotes

[62] FSIM FY 2022-23 information request. The definition of “Firefighter” includes the following roles: recruit, firefighter, firefighter level 1-3, qualified FF, leading Firefighter, Station Officer, Senior Station Officer, Commander, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Instructor - including those seconded to CFA, Deputy Commissioner and Fire Rescue Commissioner.

[63] FSIM FY 2022-23 information request

[64] FSIM notes that in 2022-23, FRV provided “one on one” assistance to 70 per cent of all women applicants through the Women’s Support Coordinator program

[65] Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 8 August 2023, https://www.vic.gov.au/fire-services-implementation-monitor-annual-report-2021-22, pg. 108.

[66] Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 8 August 2023, https://www.vic.gov.au/fire-services-implementation-monitor-annual-report-2021-22, pg. 109.

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