It is a man’s world, many have said, but the trend has been reversing in recent years with more women taking up positions not long ago considered as men’s prerogatives.
Alicia is among these women. She’s a volunteer fire-fighter in France and proud of it.
With her petite physique, she does not quite fit with the stereotypical image associated with her profession though.
She says people usually act surprised when they learn of what she does.
“Really, such a slip of a woman like you?” is the kind of thing I hear a lot. But then people get really supportive and tell me to keep going.”
A motto she’s kept in mind ever since she has joined the brigade.
“I was first drawn to this job because I wanted to be useful but I also had the will to surpass myself and show that being a woman can be an asset on the field, not a strain.”
She admits though that her gender can sometimes represent a hurdle, especially given the discrepancy in physical strength with her male counterparts.
“Men usually are more enduring on some operations, especially as far as arson is concerned, even if we are asked to perform the same tasks.”
But that doesn’t stop her.”It gives me all the more reasons to show I’m as worthy as any of them by giving my all and training harder.”
Alicia is not the only woman in her department. “We are now four where I work, including the nurse.”
There is indeed a wind of change in the industry, as slow-paced as it is, and with the growing number of women in the brigade came a change of attitude, she says.
“Men realized that we, as women, could face some interventions more easily. Being a woman helps in many situations that are too often overlooked. When it comes to interventions where children or elders are involved the presence of a woman is reassuring to them, same with women giving birth.”
Some behaviour yet remains unchanged. “I never had to face inappropriate comments, let alone gender-based discrimination. However the rivalry between men and women still exists although it is voiced in a more implicit way, through teasing for instance.”
This being said, Alicia makes a point of stressing the commitment of each member of the brigade to one another, regardless of gender.
There might be ill-tasted jokes every now and then but when a fire breaks or someone needs assistance, everyone is equally as involved.
“The core value of all fire-fighters is respect because we must stand as one in the face of danger.”
Alongside with respect, Alicia lives to exemplify the values of courage and dedication that drive her and her fellow fire-fighters to this day.
She tells the women who want to walk in her footsteps to never give up and believe in themselves.
“Do not listen to what anyone has to say and just go for it. Give everything you can to the others, that’s what matters.”
She most definitely is one inspirational slip of a woman.