One of Britain’s largest fire services requires white men to score higher on a recruitment test than women or minorities.
West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service (WMFRS) requires white men to score 70% on verbal and numerical tests, while women and black, Asian, or other ethnic men need to score only 60%. The change was implemented in September 2017, as part of an effort to increase the diversity of firefighters, but is only now being discovered by those outside the department.
Metro UK reports that a “senior source” within the department says the program costs £100,000 a year, including £2,500 a month for Facebook ads targeting only women to “minimize white men applying.”
This same source told the paper that WMFRS is the first brigade in the United Kingdom to make the change, which “directly discriminates against white men.”
“This approach was intentionally adopted to directly manipulate the diversity figures to meet the targets,” the source said. “This approach to recruitment is appalling. Not only are they discriminating against large parts of my community, but they are also using huge amounts of public money to do so. There is such a negative culture within management who want to achieve their own agendas at all costs.”
Each month, recruiters look through applicants and select around 1,000 to complete a 45 minute test measuring reaction time. Those who pass then take the numerical, verbal, and mechanical exam. This is where the discrimination (in the name of diversity) comes in, as women and minorities need only score 6 out of 10 on the verbal and numerical portions of the test, while white men must score a 7 out of ten.
“There should, of course, be measures put in place to encourage those from underrepresented groups to apply, but how would they feel if they found out they were required to perform at a lesser level because of their gender or ethnicity?” the source told Metro. “The sad fact is there are people sitting on fire engines today purely because of their gender or ethnicity and I don’t understand how any fire service leader is comfortable with that as an approach.”
The source also said the department does not post job advertisements on job boards, preferring instead to run the Facebook ads targeted at women.
A WMFRS spokesman told Metro the department “is committed to a having a workforce which reflects the diversity of the population of all our communities, and one that is welcoming to all.” This spokesman also pointed out WMFRS was ranked second in a list of the 50 Top UK Employers because of its “commitment to workplace diversity.”
“Our recruitment shows our determination to challenge outdated perceptions about who can – and can’t – be a firefighter,” the spokesman said.
David Davies, a Tory Member of Parliament, told the Express that the lowered recruitment standards were “totally bonkers.”
“They should just be picking the best man or woman for the job. They shouldn't be lowering the target for anyone just to meet a target,” he said. "The tests are there to make sure the applicant has a certain fitness and intelligence level for a job where they put their own lives at risk and save other people's."