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Use our cultural expertise to understand, improve and change your workplace culture. Specialists in masculine workplaces. Research, training and consultancy in all masculine workplaces including police and fire service with a particular emphasis on formal and informal cultures, modernisation, entreprenerial thinking, change management, resistance, racism, sexism and equality.   Women fire fighters, women in the fire service police, policing and equality in the police and fire service - the fitting-in website where academia and the fire service can meet to discuss fire service culture and other matters- a resource for research and consultancy for the fire and rescue service and firefighters and police and policing- Organised by Dr Dave Baigent this site provides a place to share and publish your own research, to look at what others have written about the fire and police service and to ask about our commercial offerings.

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Academics are not the experts, managers are the experts but what fitting-in can do is to help managers to use their expertise.

Theory without practice is a waste - Practice without theory may just be dumb!

 

Fitting-in the website that freely publishes work on the fire service and related industries
To publish your work contact dave.baigent@fitting-in.com
To hear the actual recording of this speech go to www.fitting-in.com/melbourne/speech.WAV
Reference as Baigent, D. (2007) Speech to Melbourne Diversity in Emergency Services Conference, 31-11-07
Intro
Good evening my name is Dave Baigent
For over 30 years I have served as an operational firefighter in the London Fire Brigade
Then I retired and for the last 15 years I have been an academic researching and working with people who serve in uniform
My aim has been to identify how to achieve the sort of cultural change necessary to improve the diversity of public services

So at the start of this conference I am going to talk about my work, ask a number of questions and set some challenges
So let us start at the beginning – why are we all here
Why is it that we chose to work with the emergency services

No one joins a public service because they think they will get rich
If they did they have made a big mistake

People join the emergency services because they want to serve – they want to make a difference – they want to help people
But that is not the only reason they join
Public service also provides another opportunity –
The opportunity to gain reward from serving others

So we are fortunate, people who chose public service get a double outcome from their work –
We serve the community and at the same time we serve ourselves.

That’s a really positive outcome when these two rewards are in balance

But what if that balance is tilted
Then there is a potential difficulty -
particularly if this imbalance results in us serving ourselves over and above the people we say we want to serve –
and this becomes even more important as the public that we serve changes

So whilst the emergency services used to be anglo male organisations, they now need to break free of some of their cultural ties
Not to do so is to challenge the very democracy that we all believe in
Because it is our democracy that has led to the labour laws that support equality
But the legal argument is only half the case - A workforce is better able to serve its community if it represents the community’s gender, colour and identity

Ask any police officer - they will tell you that when the community cooperate - crimes get solved
A similar situation exists for the fire service – fireys serve by saving lives
But now they increasingly do this in two ways
The first is traditional
The second requires their increasing involvement with the community as a way of spreading the message that prevention is better than cure.
This prevention message will only get through if the community will listen.
And the whole community will only listen if they recognise that your service represents them.

So in amongst tonight’s audience I know that there are people who want to support the equality message for all the right reasons
My experience also tells me that there are people who have heard the message and are confused by it
Others will be more sceptical – you are here because you think you should be
Some people will be here because they have to be

So to all of you I say talk to each other –
Engage in discussion with people outside of your group – do not be afraid to test your ideas with other people
To men in particular I argue, consider the tie you wear –
Recognise that an opportunity exists to unlearn some of your earlier behaviour
So how is this conference going to help do this
This conference is going to provide some case studies – it will offer strategies for change
We are going to challenge people and we hope people will challenge us

If you’re a cop or a firey, then no one is saying you have to give up your traditional role
Diversity is not a challenge to existing good practice but an opportunity to serve the people you joined to serve

This conference provides an opportunity to tackle some hard issues - the things people don’t want to talk about
WE should gain from and encourage the cynics, the sceptics and the dissidents in this audience to speak out – we are not here only for the converts
People have travelled from all over the world to share with you – ask them about their experiences of who is blocking equality – why do they think this is happening, and what resources are required to make a difference?

So here is another question
Ask yourself what is happening in your organisation
In particular ask if the benefits of employing more women or minority ethnic groups are being lost because they have to fit in with the existing culture.
For example, does your organisation welcome women and then require that they behave like men.
Equally, does your organisation seek to diversify by encouraging minority groups to join and then ask them to act as if they were white?
Once you have asked those questions then look to how this conference can offer you the opportunity to discover a little more about yourself and to think about new ways to serve.
Ask yourself is it possible to break free from some of the ties you have to a particular group

Take my own example
I have experienced a number of ties in my life
I have brought two of these with me – I am wearing a third.

This is my London Fire Brigade tie - this represents 31 years of my life – the time I spent working in this enormously proud organisation – the time when I was a firey - a white man working in a white male organisation

Then I have my Fire Brigades Union tie – another enormously proud organisation – this represents the same 31 years when I worked supporting my role as a white firefighter
But that was then

Now I am wearing another tie – this tie is the tie of Dr Dave Baigent – a speaker tonight at this hugely important conference – a tie that I wear again with pride.
A tie that has allowed me to write the first social science degree for emergency service workers. A degree that was specifically designed around supporting the concept of diversity in public service

Lastly I could also be wearing the tie of someone who has fathered a son and a daughter – one of my children is a firefighter - the other is the director of the national audit office.

But of course it is my child that works in the fire service that is relevant tonight.
They have been a firefighter for 14 years, and whilst the fire service they joined was a changing service, they still had to fit in with a very white male culture.

But despite the argument that the service is changing they eventually realised just how much they were required to fit I with the people they worked with

At this point my daughter had three choices
She could continue to fit in with white men and continue to bury her identity as a woman
She could leave and rebuild her life – give up the opportunity to serve
Or she could resist the anglo male culture

She chose the later – and she is now the national secretary of the women’s section of the FBU – As such she is the Peter Marshall for women in the UK – and she represents the 1000 women firefighters – the very fact that she has to do this tells a very real story of how difficult change in the fire service is.

So here I am wearing the tie of Doctor Dave, ex firefighter, ex union rep, father, grandfather and most importantly at this moment an academic who has given up some of his ties by recognising that diversity is key to serving the community.

So to everyone here tonight I ask that you recognise the ties that you wear

Take advantage of the opportunity presented by this conference
Don’t just tick some boxes
Don’t just sit around with people who wear your tie and think like you
Meet with the people who wear different ties – hear what they have to say – what they have to offer –
Try on some of their ties and see if they can fit.
I am not asking you to give up the opportunity to serve yourself
I am asking that you to use this conference as a way of improving the way you serve the people out their on the streets
The people you joined to serve

Thank you very much for inviting me
dave.baigent@fitting-in.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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References: See what The Swedish Fire Service, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services, Swedish MSB and Tom Carroll (Past president of CFOA ) and others have said.

Fitting-in can provide a cultural audit that not only feeds back on attitudes in your service it also provides an outside view on how your organisation is thinking at all levels that is supported by recommendations for focussing change.This is what Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had to say about the Ethos research, communications and training project:

"The Service are delighted with the research and reports produced by "Fitting-in. We believe that your original hypothesis and work undertaken in Merseyside has resulted in a ground breaking piece of work that can only serve to inform the wider fire and rescue communities." 

For further information or just to talk about what fitting-in can provide ring Dr Dave Baigent (FIFireE) 07802 495 329 or email

Academic theory without practice is a waste - practice without theory may just be dumb

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