Sarah Dixon, enterprise sales & commercial director UK&I at Johnson Controls, explores how the fire industry can champion diversity and attract more women in a traditionally male-dominated environment.
- The traditionally male-dominated fire industry needs to implement actionable strategies to increase opportunities for women at every level.
- To really change behaviours, businesses need to demonstrate their determination to drive the change through building workforce buy-in.
- They can do so by fostering an open and collaborative approach to discussions surrounding equity and putting key recruitment actions in flight, mandating a diverse recruitment pool of candidates.
Whilst it is clear that there are more opportunities for women in the fire industry in 2023, the benefits of diversity of thought in this traditionally male-dominated industry must continue to be embraced. To increase opportunities for women at every level, there need to be actionable strategies in place. Championing diversity of thought unlocks values we should all be aiming for – such as synergy and collaboration – and opens the door to new connected ways of thinking and working.
Partnership and a shared focus on bringing in change are key, especially in an industry as fragmented as the buildings industry. Collaboration has the potential to deliver cultural change that makes buildings’ safety the top priority. At its heart, a new culture for the fire industry is about scrapping the box-ticking and moving towards practical action.
Cultural shifts to deliver impact
Embracing equity is about making sure that strategies for change are actually being implemented. It’s about walking the walk and being prepared as leaders in the fire industry to stand up and be counted. Across the industry, it’s an approach which calls for improvements in communication with all parties involved in a project coming together as a whole.
But it isn’t just about macro-level change, it’s about motivating businesses and individuals to lead the charge and play their part. And whatever the scope of the change programme, whether a complete organisational restructure or more targeted efforts to engage the workforce, your measures have to be accessible and make good practical and commercial sense for all.
The human factor: what’s in it for me?
Getting the human factor right is the key to success. The more positive, supportive and collaborative your culture is, the more likely it is that your teams will exhibit and promote behaviours that will help underpin new culture. To really change behaviours, businesses need to demonstrate their determination to drive the change through building workforce buy-in. Doing this effectively requires serious investment in strategies and people.
What’s in it for me? All of us battle to find enough hours in the day, so if you want to impact real change you must show the workforce the benefits for them. It’s dull and unengaging to share instructions or lengthy insights in technical language.
There is no reason why change must be tedious or uninspiring. Instead of a lengthy booklet which sets out rules and regulations in technical language, why not grab the opportunity to tell people how much time they’ll save or how much personal impact they’ll make by making a few simple practices part of their new working day.
Leveraging diverse thinking
Strong D&I initiatives deliver diversity of thought at an organisation-wide level. But leveraging the value of diverse thinking should not only be an outcome of your culture change efforts, but it should also underpin them from the start.
Integrating diversity of thought is key to unlocking the synergy and collaboration we want to become the hallmark of the buildings industry. With our eyes set firmly on building collaboration in our industry, diverse thinking will fuel new connected ways of working and will play a part in driving well-rounded solutions that will turn the tide on fragmented practice.
So how are we implementing change? It is about fostering an open and collaborative approach to discussions surrounding equity and putting key recruitment actions in flight, mandating a diverse recruitment pool of candidates. Implementing these changes is already paying off.
Traditionally, our industry has had an overwhelmingly male workforce but we’re making great progress at encouraging more women to join our industry. Between October 2020 and July 2021, in just seven months, our female hires jumped from 23% to 32%. We’re also leading change through education with our D&I working to educate people managers on the value and business impact of D&I. And we’re supporting diversity in the broader community, providing financial support to smaller businesses to increase their pool of diverse talent.
It cannot be overstated: embracing equity is not just an ideological shift in mindset but a practical one too. Change starts through building workforce buy-in to ensure your employees can see exactly how policy changes will benefit them and the work they create.
By fostering a collaborative approach that offers education, learning resources and opportunities for teachable moments that can engage everyone at any level you can work towards change that is deeply woven into the industry. At the end of the day, we aren’t here because we are women. We’re here because we want to create safer spaces for people to live comfortably.
The opinions of guest authors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of SG Voice.