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Last updated: 21/08/2018, 11:31 AM

Sexist adverts and media damage women's firefighting ambitions

21/08/2018 00:13
Our people

Sexist firefighter stereotypes on television and in the media that portray male firefighters as sex objects  are preventing women from thinking about a career in the fire service according to London Fire Brigade.

Men are more able to be firefighters than women 

New figures released today show that 25 per cent of women think men are more able to be firefighters than women. That rises to nearly a third in the 18 to 24 age group. But only 7 per cent of the same women surveyed think men are more able to be police officers than women. 

The Brigade is so concerned about the impact gender stereotyping is having on its ability to encourage young women to apply to be firefighters and fire engineers that it has backed Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) proposal to ban sexist stereotyping in adverts.

Adverts that don't help

Have a look at the adverts that shocked our staff members.

Watch the adverts

"frankly embarrassing"

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has also written to 40 national and local news editors to ask them to stop using the term ‘Fireman’  and to challenge sexist language in order to shift public attitudes.

“It was thirty years ago that people were shocked to see women police officers and it’s frankly embarrassing that the public are still shocked to see women firefighters today.

“The armed forces and the police force have all been enriched by having women better represented across their ranks and it’s time the fire and rescue service caught up. Role models like Juliet Bravo and Jane Tennison changed people’s perception of women in the police force. Now it’s time for advertisers, journalists and marketers to stop relying on lazy clichés and help change attitudes which will in turn encourage more women to embark on a wonderful and fulfilling career in the fire service.”

This work is part of the Brigade’s #Firefightingsexism campaign, which aims to break down the sexist stereotypes that still surround the fire and rescue industry. 

Lazy and unhelpful stereotypes in adverts

London Fire Brigade staff, watch and respond to a few examples of adverts that keep the myth that firefighting is a man's job, and that women need to be rescued...


Muller light advert

Harpic toilet cleaner

Imperial Leather

Lynx deodorant

Male dominated

We conducted additional research with consultants Future Thinking to explore the barriers to women considering a career as a firefighter and asked how the Brigade could overcome those barriers. Comments from the women included:

  • “I think it’s a very masculine environment.”
  • “Perception is it’s a sexist field and quite male dominated and I don’t know how I could handle that.”
  • “Growing up you would get some of the parents to come in and talk about what they do, mums never come in and talk about being a firefighter.”

Changing attitudes

Attitudes are changing; the Daily Express, Global Radio and Get West London have committed to change their editorial policy following the Commissioner’s letter, but sadly, to date, the Brigade received no response from 75 per cent of the recipients.


The #FirefightingSexism campaign is part of the Brigade’s Safer Together strategy, which sets out the organisation’s commitment to equality and diversity. It is also in line with the Mayor of London’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, which celebrates the role of women in making London the city it is today.

Our commitment