News & Media

A snapshot of women in CFA, leadership and reviews

By: Euan Ferguson

  10.00 AM 18 April, 2011

Views: 9139

Recently the Bayswater CFA Brigade elected Diana Ferguson as their Captain. She joins a small but growing number of females who share the leadership in the organisation.

Did you know that 80% of CFA's volunteer base is male and predominantly white Anglo Saxon? 55% of the volunteer base is over the age of 45 years, of which 82% are male. If we look more closely at women in CFA, 45% of the 11,900 female members are operational and 54% are non operational. The percentage of females who are Brigade Captains is 1.5%. The percentage of females who are Captains and Lieutenants is 3.67%. 98 % of CFA Operational staff is male with no female members in operational leadership roles. 49% of CFA's non operational staff are female. DC/O Stephen Warrington recently wrote that: "If we accept that talent is spread equally across gender then we must admit that our assumption of operating within a truly meritocratic organisation is fundamentally flawed."

Gender and diversity in society are topical and very current issues. One needs only to look at the debate at the moment that involves the Australian Defence Force. Does CFA, and the fire industry in general, suffer from similar cultural issues that have been alleged in the ADF? A core group of people in CFA wishing to address the issue of under representation of women in CFA came together recently to scope out what was required to ensure women are better represented in all facets and levels of CFA. We look forward in the near future to a forum being established to promote female membership in CFA and to address women's issues.

Fire Services Commissioner Fire Season Reviews:
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley recently advised of various reviews that are under way. They include an end of fire season review; reviews of community warnings; aircraft; the State Incident Management capability. There is also an Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner review of the Tostaree fire. Craig reinforces that the aim of these reviews is about improving performance in operational practice and community safety outcomes. The reviews are focused on the future and about improvement; they are not about criticising, looking backwards or blaming any individual or group. Some of the reviews are about recording outstanding performance so that it can be used as a reference point and a place where we should aspire to in serving the community.

 Leading Our People:
One of the most effective ways of exercising leadership is through physical presence. To move amongst our people, immersing yourself amongst them. To meet in the same place as our people, to look them in the eye and to have the courage to explain, to discuss and to debate is an essential attribute of leadership in CFA.

In today's setting, it is too easy to be subsumed with administrative bureaucracy. It is too easy, as a leader, to resort to the comfort zone of the home, the office or safe ground. We are leaders of people; our role then, is to have the courage to get out and amongst our people. Through discussion and dialogue, by debating and explaining, we have a unique opportunity to shape the intent, attitude and culture of CFA and the actions of our people. To actively listen, to seek out alternate views and to account for challenges gives a greater understanding of what we are trying to achieve. Feedback, even diverse, counter or unexpected views, makes us stronger individually and as an organisation. This results in better outcomes.

Leadership is about creating direction and inspiring people to do great things, often in adverse situations. Leaders take our people down a path that they would otherwise choose not to go. As leaders we need to show the way. We need to encourage those who are in doubt or who may need strength. We thank those who have held the course and we set an example for those who need a role model. Leaders do their best; they stay positive; and they take care of their people. This then, is leadership.

Quote of the week:

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows the triumph of achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt.

Last Updated: 10 December 2015