West Cheshire Womens Network's first event of 2017 was a huge success.
Helen Tooley, station manager for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, gave an ‘inspiring’ and ‘thought provoking’ talk based on her career in the Fire Service.
More than 60 businesswomen from around the region attended the event held at the Holiday Inn Chester South on March 16th.
The audience listened intently as Helen spoke about working in a predominately male environment; facing sexism, bullying and sharing sleeping quarters with an all-male team.
One of the problems Helen faced while carrying out her basic training is one that she still faces today – the uniform.
“When I first started they didn’t have any kit to fit women, my boots were a size 10 instead of my usual sixe five, my gloves were too big, my tunic was down by my knees and my helmet wouldn’t stay on.
“Nowadays the kit all fits, but the zip on our coats still fastens the wrong way, they are made for men; however I have been promised new kits for females which I’m very excited about.”
Cheshire Fire Service currently employees 32 female firefighters, a mixture of fulltime and retained.
“Women have been working in the Fire Service for the past 44 years, but people are still shocked when they see a woman in the uniform, especially when that woman is in charge,” said Helen.
“I’m always talking to women about signing up the Fire Service, and I encourage all the female firefighters I work with to go for promotion.
“I believe you can do anything you want to do, there should be no barriers.”
Tracey Carter, business safety manager at Cheshire Fire and Rescue said: “The group were looking for inspiring female speakers, I knew the audience would relate to Helen’s journey no matter what career they were in.”
Founded in 2013, the West Cheshire Womens Business Network provides an opportunity for businesswomen to come together, network and meet like-minded people from across the region.
Co-hosted by Natwest PLC, Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce and Cheshire West and Chester Council; the group meet four times a year with a different guest speaker at every event.
Debbie Stokes, membership director of the Chamber of Commerce added: “We had a great turnout, it was a lovely atmosphere and everyone thoroughly enjoyed Helen’s talk.
“I’ve made her promise to come back once she makes chief fire officer.”
The next West Cheshire Womens Network event will be held on Thursday, June 29th (9.30am – 11.30am) at The Holiday Inn Chester South.
Events are free but attendance must be registered, for further details visit www.wcnwchamber.org.uk