Where Should the Fire Service Focus Be for Diversity and Inclusiveness?

By: Lydia Wilcox, Firefighter, Guest Blogger

Chief Robert Avsec is a guy that “gets it” regarding diversity and inclusiveness in the fire service because he’s willing to 20160706_Columbus Firefightersput his name to his words.

One thing I would like to add to one of his latest posts as a thought/question/or starting point for a discussion is: can we change the culture as it stands today, or should we be looking to the future and educate those that will come after us?

I am absolutely not diminishing the work of the exceptional leaders that are out there today, from men and women, visible minorities and the LGBTQ communities, and anyone I may have missed only by my pure ignorance. It is the ground swell of work they are doing that will realign the direction of the “freighter” we call the fire service.

What I am asking is, should we become more active in youth groups, sports teams, and become mentors and the guiding posts of what we would like to see happening today in the fire service?

20160706_fire chief-olsson-articleAs an example, I have two boys 10 and 12 years-of-age and my husband and I do our best at having very open conversations with them. The most recent was with my 10 year-old on transgendered persons and gender equality. (Good bedtime subjects, BTW).  Our discussions around gay marriage happened about two years ago, so as you can tell we are a pretty liberal family and no topic is taboo, because my husband and I think that all people are equal and deserve equal rights, end of story.

My boys have been in Scouts (Canada) since they were five (Beavers) and this year I became a Scouter (leader). Then because I had a sliver of time in my schedule, I applied to be on a working group to write policy for diversity and inclusiveness for Scouts Canada and was accepted. I love doing this work and the research because I want to learn how all of the pieces fit together, and let me tell you there are a lot of pieces, and if you think about it a bit, there are a lot of parallels between scouts and the fire service.

So my theory behind me doing this work is to educate those coming behind us in the fire service because I believe it is 20160706_castro-and-crewmy duty to reach back and bring those behind me with me. When they asked me in the interview what the group means to me, it was easy to answer because I draw from my own work experience in a fire hall. It means that no person (youth or adult) goes to a meeting or a camp (firehall) and is ever reminded of what makes them “different” (Personally I like “extraordinary” over different).

So what does everyone think? Should we focus solely on the here and now, or should we look to the future. You know, the future I am talking about, those little people that get U.S.S. (unidentified sticky stuff) all over the back seat of your brand new car.

About the Author

Lydia WilcoxLydia Wilcox has been a Firefighter with the Kitchener (Ontario) Fire Department for eight years, after a seven-year career as a municipal Building Inspector.  Currently she sits on the board of Fire Service Women Ontario (FSWO), an organization whose mandate it is to Encourage, Educate and Empower Women within the fire service and those who would like to be.

Lydia runs a mentoring program through FSWO for pre-service women seeking a career in the service, pairing them with mentors willing to share their knowledge and personal experiences, she is always willing to share this program with anyone interested.  The main goal of her work off shift is to increase the diversification and inclusiveness of the fire service. Contact Lydia Wilcox at [email protected].



About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].