International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

This year, the theme is #ChooseToChallenge

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let's all choose to challenge.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?

Celebrate women's achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

To acknowledge and celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 at Fire and Emergency, Raewyn Bleakley, Deputy Chief Executive Office of the Chief Executive, and Rachael Utumapu, Manager Women’s Development, hosted two live video conferences with a panel of operational wāhine. Hear about some of their experiences, challenges, what’s improved over time and what we can do to empower our women by watching the videos below.

Video conference 1 - held at 1:30pm, Monday 8 March 2021

Panel members: Nellie Papali’i, Lyn Crosson and Renee Potae

Video conference 2 - held at 6:30pm, Monday 8 March 2021

Panel members: Lyn Crosson, Renee Potae and Katie Pocock


We received a number of questions that we didn’t get round to answering during the sessions.

How can women support other women to undertake their roles, and consider how we approach inclusion in the organisation?

Women can support each other by being better connected with one another, such as learning who is in local surrounding brigades and what talents you all bring to the organisation. This will enable you to build on your strengths and open up conversations with others. You can also connect through the Women in Fire and Emergency Network, or by getting involved in your local Regional Women’s Advisory Network.

Do you think women have a loud enough voice in the organisation?

We’ve made vast progress since the WFENZ network has been operating. We know there’s still a way to go, but we really appreciate the support that is behind us and driving this work. There is more focus now on what women bring to the organisation, so the female voice is definitely getting louder.

What is the make-up of women within Fire and Emergency in different roles: career, volunteer, ComCen, non-operational and corporate?

As of 9 March 2021:


Number of women

Total (male and female)

Female %

All volunteers




Career firefighters




Other staff (including ComCen and non-operational staff)




Grand total




 What are our numbers of women in leadership roles?

Number of women in volunteer leadership roles:

Job Title

Number of women

Chief Fire Officer           


Deputy Chief Fire Officer             


Rural Controller                                  


Rural Deputy Controller                          


Senior Station Officer            


Senior Station Officer (Officer in Charge)


Station Officer


Station Officer (Officer in Charge)


Grand total


Percentage of gender in volunteer leadership roles


NB:  One is a Station Officer in two brigades, she has been represented once, and there is one who is a Volunteer Station Officer and a Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer (DPRFO), she has been represented in her DPRFO role.

Number of women in career station leadership roles

Job Title

Number of women

Senior Station Officer                       


Station Officer                                  


Grand total


Percentage of gender in career leadership roles


Number of women in operational executive leadership roles

(Region Manager, Area Manager, Principal Rural Fire Officer, Assistant Area Manager or Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer) 

Job Title

Number of women

Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer              


Grand total


Percentage of gender in operational executive roles


Number of women in non-operational leadership roles (management and support) who manage people 

Job Title

Number of women



Cheif Advisor


Deputy Chief Executive




National Manager


Principal Advisor        


Senior Advisor


Senior Fire Risk Management Officer


Team Leader


Grand total


Percentage of gender in management and support leadership roles


Do you think by celebrating being a female firefighter today that it can also hinder normalising females on the truck?

We’re celebrating our unique strengths as women, and that’s not just women in the fire trucks. That’s all our women, whether they’re operational or non-operational, and also the wives, sisters and mothers that always support us every day.

Fire and Emergecy has a challenge to increase the proportion of women within the firefighting ranks. What steps is Fire and Emergency taking to increase the proportion of women firefighters, especially career?

We’ve done a fair amount of work over the years to attract and increase the number of women to firefighting as a career. This includes:

  • Having more focused recruitment campaigns that are targeted to encouraging women to apply for firefighting roles.
  • Working with the WFENZ network to establish informal mentoring for female candidates. Once in place, this will provide support and guidance prior, and during the testing process and continue onto station.
  • Establishing information/practice days for all applicants to get more information about the application process and what to expect. Participants can also attend a practice day before the National Recruiting Round opens to give them the best chance to go through testing successfully.
  • Sporting Career Pathways trial initiative (work experience model) which is involves us working with NZU, NZRL, NZ Warriors, Basketball NZ, and NZ Cricket Players Assn to encourage athletes to consider a career in firefighting. The most recent candidate, Ella Fotu (Tall Fern), will be attending the April Career Firefighter Recruit Course graduating 24th June 2021.
  • We’re also doing some work in Auckland and Wellington to focus on targeting events and engaging those from our underrepresented communities).

As a male who really wants to champion this work, what can we do at a brigade level to support the network? What is the best way to make a difference?

Normalising the WFENZ network, acknowledging at brigade level how important the network is and that the network is here for all of us. Thinking about the theme for this International Women’s Day, it’s also important that all our people challenge unwanted behaviour, whether they see or experience it.

Are there opportunities from COVID-19 to look at our sometimes-rigid ways of working to allow flexibility for, not only our women; but for all?  What has COVID-19 taught us?

The organisation has adapted to the COVID-19 environment with many more people working flexibly.

Is there anything out there to help us get some confidence if you are one of three women in a very strong male brigade.

The best thing to do would be to engage with your Regional Women’s Advisory Network committee members who will be able to support you with some tools to help you through this.

How do I as a woman put myself forward to be a part of my brigade’s management? I'm about to do my SFF and have been in for 7 years.

The Regional Women’s Advisory Network committee members can definitely assist you with this so get in touch with your local Regional Women’s Advisory Network(external link).

Some of the comments we had in the video conferences:

“Congratulations to all women, volunteers, careers, businesses... and also the wives, sisters and mothers that always support us, not just today but every day!”

“There are some amazing, intelligent women on this discussion, and it is great to hear your stories!”

“Thanks Raewyn, Rach, Nellie, Renee, and Lyn. Really appreciate you opening up and being vulnerable - it’s a brave thing to do and of great value. This has been a really good session. Kei runga noa atu koe!”

“Fantastic korero and very inspirational. A real demonstration of just some of our phenomenal female leaders within Fire and Emergency. Happy International Women’s Day to all our women who are really leading a more inclusive culture. Thanks Raewyn, Rachael, Nellie, Lynn and Renee for leading this mahi today.”

“Inspiring discussion team and hopefully this gives all women in Fire and Emergency the confidence and drive to achieve whatever they hope to achieve or reach the levels in the organisation they desire to reach.  I think all Fire and Emergency personnel (males and females) can and should help enable this progression by calling out the behaviour that opposes it, and providing an environment that supports this progress.”

“Awesome job ladies. I really appreciate the fact women have come forward to talk about their experiences and challenges. I am keen to see the support for women and create a positive culture for us too.”

“No question, just want to say thank you all so much for this forum, you are all inspiring and so relatable. Wonderful women!”

“Made me realise I am not alone in those experiences/situations.”

Last modified: