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Dany Cotton, the first woman to be appointed London Fire Commissioner

https://issuu.com/prospectprofile/docs/eprofile_1-17_issuu Page 19

While she was temping and still looking for a proper career, Dany noticed an advert in her local paper. The London Fire Brigade was recruiting and “would particularly welcome women and BME candidates”. “I went home and showed friends and family. They basically said: ‘That’s not a job for women. It’s a man’s job,’” recalls Dany. “In some ways, that just made me think ‘I’ll give it a go anyway.’”

Dany became commissioner on 1 January this year, nearly 30 years after she applied to the advert, and today leads nearly 6,000 LFB staff.

 

Diversity is central to the idea of firefighters being “co-responders” who can help across a range of community problems. Currently, just 7% of the LFB are women and 12% are ethnic minorities. While it may not matter who comes to help when your house is on fire, Dany makes a strong argument about why increasing diversity is important. “I may not know, in your culture, how you cook and prepare your food. If you traditionally deep-fry your food, then you’ll be at greater risk from fire. Or a certain religious group might use candles at certain times. If we don’t know these things then we can’t help them. “We need to understand all parts of the community. That won’t happen if we don’t have people inside the LFB who look and talk like London’s fantastic diverse range of people. “Also, there might be brilliant people across London who look at the LFB and think, it’s all white blokes. It’s not for me. We might be missing out on people with the potential to be great firefighters.”