A firefighter has shared her passion for inspiring the next generation of women in the fire service

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In 2009, Laura McHardy joined the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as a retained firefighter after overcoming her own perception about the role.

Now, she hopes to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps.

She explained: “Looking back, the gender stereotypical view of a 'fireman' impacted my own perception of the role and I remember seeing a recruitment poster with two men in fire kit and clearly thinking they won't be looking for women.

"But I enjoy a challenge and learning new skills, so I applied. I have always found the role a great fit for me and the flexibility suited my lifestyle, especially as I completed my Open University degree."

Laura has risen through the ranks and in her new full-time role she now supports six Highland stations.

She said: “In January 2020, I began the role of Retained and Volunteer Support Watch Commander. Back when I joined, I could never have imagined it would lead to a full-time opportunity. I thought I’d have to leave the Service after completing my degree, but now I can continue supporting my colleagues and our communities and use the skills and experience I gained completing my degree in the fire service.”

Laura has attended a number of memorable incidents over the last 12 years, but her recent promotion and involvement in positive action events to encourage more women to consider careers in the fire service are highlights.

She explained: “My new role has been my favourite experience so far as it has a very strong ethos of 'working together' and I am fortunate to work with incredibly committed people to deliver positive outcomes. My involvement in the women-only online information events also sticks out, as I believe it's important to develop strong networks where we can empower each other to achieve success.

“When I joined the Service, I personally felt a need to prove myself as being as capable as male colleagues, it was uncommon to see women at incidents or training. However, I’ve seen a huge shift in recent years, with Inverness wholetime going from one female firefighter to seven and I’d like to help push it further.

“My colleagues have always encouraged me to develop. Gender should never be a barrier to anyone thinking of applying, everyone is welcomed and treated with respect and women are equally skilled and equally capable to perform the role.”

She continued: “It's great to work with so many talented women and I hope, as role models, we can inspire the next generation of firefighters in Scotland. I’ve worked hard and it’s paid off.

“It takes grit and determination to do this job. It can be dirty and exhausting too, but the teamwork and accomplishment are second to none.”

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