The Toronto Fire Services (TFS) has recently stated in its report "A Path to Diversity" that it hopes to recruit more women into its service. Recent Twitter posts by two young male firefighters in East Command, which were publicized by the National Post, indicate that there is a culture within the field that might not be very welcoming towards an increase in female firefighters. Still, if recruitment is successful, it could be the key to changing the culture from the roots.
Of 2,742 Toronto firefighters, only 67 are women. A mere 5.2% of Toronto Fire employees are women, and of this percentage, most work in communications answering emergency calls as opposed to direct involvement on trucks. If the culture at the stations remains as hostile as it seems to be, women who would potentially consider the job will undoubtedly be deterred from applying.
Around the same time that "A Path to Diversity" was revealed, these tweets from Toronto Fire Servicemen — who refer to themselves as “hero” in their usernames — were made public: They called women “weak” and “defective,” and alluded to violence. One tweet read, “Would swat her in the back of the head been considered abuse or a way to reset the brain?” While this is clearly not representative of all employees of the TFS, it does show that more successful female emergency response employees are needed in order to prove that they can get the job done.
The Toronto City Council recently instructed TFS to construct a diversity plan, and once "A Path to Diversity" was written, TFS claimed that their goal was a 10% target increase in female employees. It has been argued that the plan compromises the physical qualifications of the team.
However, while the plan may look like standard employment equity efforts, its importance goes beyond being needing to enhance the TFS’s image to appease the City Council. Increased female employees may be the only solution to changing a discriminatory culture within the field and proving that a fire squad with more female firefighters can, and will, be just as effective as a team without.