CDS team marks International Women’s Day to raise awareness of gender bias

News | March 2022

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We’re marking International Women’s Day here at CDS by talking to some of the female members of our team about their experience of working in the fire safety industry.

Here’s what they have to say.

First up, here’s fire alarm service engineer Grace McDonald.

What do you enjoy best about working in the fire safety industry?

I enjoy the camaraderie between other engineers, regardless of the company you work for. Everyone I’ve spoken to is willing to help you out which means you always have a solid support network behind you if you’re not 100% sure on something or if you need someone to bounce ideas off. I really enjoy working on a variety of sites in lots of different sectors to ensure they have the best fire system to suit their needs.

What do you think can be done to encourage more women into what is seen as a ‘male’ profession?

At school, the trades were never presented to the girls as an option; it was more about “go and get A levels and a degree or go to college and get into the beauty industry”. I think all trades (whether that be fire alarm engineering, plumbing, heating, electrical, bricklaying etc.) should be presented to girls throughout school so they can make an informed decision about whether that’s something for them or not. I was really fortunate to have stumbled across the fire alarm industry whilst unhappy in an office job, and just found the industry clicked with me and presented a career path I was really eager to follow. I have no regrets in doing that.

What is your message to girls at school looking into future career ideas?

Be open-minded. Take every opportunity and give it a go because worst case scenario, you don’t like it and therefore don’t do it again. If you can get any work experience or have a college open day in the trades, you may find that something you enjoy.

Have you ever encountered any bias or negative comments about being a woman in this industry?

Never. I find most people are surprised to have me on site but I think that’s more to do with the baby face than the being a woman. If anything, I find lots of customers having a really positive attitude towards me and are willing to help me out should I need it. I’ve done a few jobs where they had female site staff in the engineering team and they are always really excited to see another woman on the tools and they will always root for you. I’ve found that trady ladies all stick together and it’s fantastic.

National sales manager Sophie Kelly has this to say:

What do you enjoy best about working in the fire safety industry?

As this is a new industry for me every day is a learning day, with new skills to develop and people to meet. I also feel that this is an industry where I can make a difference.  Knowing that the work we do provides safety and compliance through our on-site engineer experts. Being a part of that is great!

What do you think can be done to encourage more women into what is seen as a’male’ profession?

Seeing other women in the industry and creating communities, such as Women in Fire Safety (https://www.womeninfiresafety.com) to support all of us is vital. We are lucky at CDS to have a number of women, working in the company, I hope this number continues to rise so it becomes the norm to have a balance of women and men in the industry.

What is your message to girls at school looking into future career ideas? 

Come and work with us! There is a lot of support within the industry to develop the right people, be confident in what you can offer. Compliance is vital across all industries so you can work with people to give them a happy and safe working environment.

Have you encountered any bias or negative comments about being a woman in this industry?

Having been to a number of fire events, the thing that strikes me is the general lack of any diversity, lets hope that this gap continues to narrow! I have been accepted into the industry and I guess there is a keenness to bring the industry up to date and encourage and develop women.

Project coordinator Marie Mason has this to say:

What do you enjoy best about working in the fire safety industry?

I think a lot goes on behind the scenes when working within the industry and it’s rewarding to know you have contributed to the successful rollout of a new project that will inevitably save lives. I have found there is a real sense of community within the fire sector and I regularly receive support from other industry professionals. Everyone works together to achieve the same goal and it’s lovely to be a part of.

What do you think can be done to encourage more women into what is seen as a ’male’ profession?

More female representation and role models are definitely needed. I think a space where women in the fire industry can come together and network would be great. Whether this be online or through in person events, it would really elevate the female fire community and encourage women to gain confidence in a male-dominated profession. Businesses also need to celebrate and encourage diversity to embrace the skills that women have to offer.

What is your message to girls at school looking into future career ideas?

Be brave, step outside your comfort zone, have confidence in your own knowledge/skills and don’t be afraid to enter a male dominated industry. It’s not as scary as it seems!

Have you encountered any bias or negative comments about being a woman in this industry?

Everyone has been super supportive of my new career and I can’t wait to see where it leads in the future.