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Male firefighters took ‘scenic route’ to ogle women, sex harassment tribunal hears

This is the latest in a string of allegations of misogyny in the emergency forces

A female firefighter won her sex harassment case after her male colleagues regularly would take the ‘scenic route’ back to their station to ogle women.

The tribunal heard they referred to this activity as a “f***y run” or a “d**k” run if a female firefighter was present, which one member of staff said was “for inclusivity purposes.” They would involve the firefighters discussing whether they would have sex with passing women.

The claimant Julie Wilkinson told the tribunal she experienced numerous instances of casual sexism, including sexual images and jokes on a WhatsApp group and making sexual comments.

Wilkinson was successful in her claim for sexual harassment, with compensation yet to be decided.

Read more: Transgender employee wins historic sex discrimination case

This is the latest in a string of allegations of misogyny in the emergency forces, including in the police force and ambulance service.

Roujin Ghamsari, former director of HR at NHS England said the hierarchical nature of emergency services can make them susceptible to misogynistic culture.

She told HR magazine: “Misogyny in emergency services is both intensified and complexified by the intense stresses of the profession and the hierarchical structures that place significant emphasis on rank and seniority. 

“This ‘stars on shoulders’ ethos often stifles individual voices, making it daunting to challenge authority or address ingrained biases. 

“This can create an environment where confronting misogynistic behaviours is viewed as insubordination.”

Zofia Bajorek, senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, added that these were historically male-dominated sectors.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “In some sectors there is still a very male thinking dominated culture.

“This is common where there is a history of so-called office banter where unacceptable comments were seen as commonplace and as jovial remarks. 

“As the workforce has diversified in many ways, some behaviour in these sectors has not moved along at the same pace, creating a toxic environment.”

Read more: Men's role in interrupting sexism at work

Research from gender equality charity the Fawcett society found at least 40% of women experience sexual harassment during the course of their career.

This number rises to 68% for disabled women and 68% for LGBTQ+ employees.

Alesha De-Freitas, head of policy at the Fawcett Society, said the Worker Protection Bill, which is currently going through parliament, would put an onus on workplaces to prevent sexual harassment.

"We need both a cultural shift and policy intervention to turn this tide. 

“We are so pleased to be working on the Worker Protection Bill, which has its final stage in the House this Friday. 

“This bill will create a preventative duty – an onus on employers to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces before it happens, rather than merely redress it after the fact. That is one critical step towards shifting workplace cultures.”