The physical requirements to become a firefighter are outdated and disadvantage women, a group of female firefighters told the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten. They have been supported by the head of the rescue service in Greater Gothenburg, who promised a review of fitness tests.
Anyone who wants to become a firefighter in Sweden must undergo a series of physical tests, which include being able to jump two metres in standing long jump, completing 35 reps of 30 kilo bench presses and running 3,000 metres in 13:15 minutes' time. However, these are so-called guideline values: desirable results, rather than absolute requirements.
Still, a group of female firefighters argued that these tests are unjust and put women at a disadvantage. One of them is Lisa Dahlqvist, who has worked as a firefighter in Gothenburg for three years and does crossfit at an elite level.
“There was a very big uproar when I managed it. It was in all the news, and I got a lot of attention, because I'm a woman. But as a guy, you can pass these tests quite easily, because this set of elements benefits guys. It's men's standard right through. When you divide it into such niche elements, it becomes very clear that you exclude female applicants. It is a very outdated idea, yet you stick to it,” she said.
According to Dahlqvist, the test should be about one's versatility as a whole. Therefore, more nuance should be added to the test, which she called too rigid.
“I know of no issue that is so infected and sensitive to talk about as a physical requirement for the rescue service. No one dares to talk about it, and especially not the girls themselves. I'm damn tired of this and of seeing girls have their dream shattered time and again,” an anonymous firefighter concurred.
The female firefighters have garnered the support of Lars Klevensparr, union director at the Greater Gothenburg rescue service. He agreed that too much emphasis is placed on the physical test and announced a review of the tests to be done to see if anything can be changed.
“I give them credit. After all, it is the group's total ability that should be counted. Then it is not only big hands and strong biceps that count, but it is very much about what is inside the forehead,” Klevensparr told Göteborgs-Posten.
The Swedish Police Academy places lower strength requirements on women than on men, and has been criticised for endorsing a set of double standards and lowering the overall level of performance.
“That kind of quota has two negatives. One is that these 'quotas' really are just a finer way of saying 'discrimination', in this case discrimination against male applicants who lose their place to female applicants with poorer results. The second is the damage they do to the confidence to those who are quoted,” Blanche Sande of the think-tank Timbro said in a comment to the video where three policewoman fail to overpower a male criminal.