Big Interview – Kate Blake


International Women’s Day with Kate Blake, Director of Business Development, FirePro UK Ltd, Council Member for Fire Industry Association, Co-Founder of Women in Fire Safety Awards 

Can you share with us the journey that led you to your current role as Director of Business Development at FirePro and a Council member for the Fire Industry Association? 

My journey to my current roles has been diverse and enriching. Starting with no clear career path and working in various jobs, including sales and banking, I developed a keen interest in housing and construction. This led me to study construction management and work in various on-site roles, eventually shifting to the supply chain sector during the recession. My entry into the fire industry began with a role in fire alarm manufacturing, further expanding into international sales for sounders and beacons. Co-founding Women in Fire Safety was a highlight, aimed at celebrating the achievements of women in the industry. It was around three years ago that I was introduced to the MD of FirePro UK, Tony Hanley. He has been a solid supporter of the Women in Fire Safety Awards, and out of the blue, I got a call from Tony, offering to meet to discuss a Director of Business Development post, and the rest, as they say, is history. This is definitely a fresh challenge in which I am confident I will make a positive difference in driving business growth.  

With International Women’s Day in mind, what message would you like to share with women around the world who are striving to make their mark in traditionally male-dominated industries? 

Over the years, women have made significant strides in what were traditionally male-dominated industries. My own journey is a testament to this progress. As a mother and professional, resilience has been my cornerstone. My message to women is clear: pursue your passions relentlessly and never undervalue yourself, or your contribution, which is something, occasionally I don’t mind admitting that I have been guilty of doing. It’s not just about overcoming obstacles but also about fostering collaboration. I do believe that as time moves on, we will continue to see far more recognition, unity and support from what originally were traditionally male-dominated industries, and personally, I genuinely can see positive progress happening. Remember, your voice is powerful and essential for change. Our collective efforts continue to pave the way for a more inclusive workplace not just here in the UK but all over the world 

As the Co-Founder of Women in Fire Safety Awards, what inspired you to establish this platform, and how do you see it evolving in the future? 

The Women in Fire Safety Awards emerged from a 2021 discussion with my co-founder Chloe Vickery. The fire industry has so many opportunities in so many disciplines, and we just wanted to help to create more awareness of what is achievable and of course, encourage and attract new talent for the future. And with the future in mind, we also wanted our initiative to be recognised as a positive contribution to the fire industry’s diversity by celebrating female professionals’ contributions. Surprised by the wealth of nominations and global support, the awards have rapidly expanded, affirming the significant role of women in this sector. As we approach its fourth year, our vision is to further elevate and diversify the industry, making it more inclusive. We anticipate even greater participation and impact, inspiring more women to join and innovate within fire safety. 

Reflecting on your extensive career, what have been some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the fire safety industry? 

In my career within the fire safety industry, navigating imposter syndrome and mastering public speaking were formidable challenges, also arranging childcare schedules as a mother in the earlier days also could be exhausting. The need to assert my competence and be taken seriously, pushed me to extensively prepare for professional engagements. Balancing the demands of work and family life, while striving to avoid burnout, has been a continuous journey, my children have all left now, so it does get better in that regard. These experiences underscored the importance of resilience, self-belief, and the pursuit of a balanced life. In recent years, we have been told we can have it all…from experience, something sometimes has to give… However that being said, the Fire Safety Industry is a supportive and exciting area to work in and it has certainly been worth the challenges.  

Can you share a particular moment or achievement in your career that you feel embodies the progress women are making in this field? 

A defining moment for me was witnessing the transformative impact of the Women in Fire Safety events. Unlike typical industry gatherings, these events illuminate the significant strides women are making in fire safety. The diverse stories of perseverance, achievement, and recognition highlight a shift towards greater inclusivity. Seeing nominees gain recognition, further opportunities, and enhanced career visibility showcases not just individual successes but the collective progress of women in this sector. It’s a vivid reminder of the resilience and growing influence women contribute to the fire safety industry, marking a significant step forward in diversity and empowerment. 

What initiatives or strategies do you believe are most effective in promoting diversity within the fire safety industry? 

Enhancing diversity in the fire safety industry centres on raising awareness about the wide range of career options beyond traditional firefighting roles. Initiatives like Women in Fire Safety play a crucial role in showcasing diverse opportunities, from engineering to sales. Educational outreach, particularly during career days, is key to challenging stereotypes and revealing the sector’s full scope to a broader demographic. Encouraging work experience and internships within the industry helps demystify the field, providing clear pathways into various roles. These efforts collectively contribute to attracting a more diverse workforce, crucial for the industry’s continued growth and innovation. 

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