Fire Buyer sits down with Andrea White, Fire Engineer and Founder of the Women in Fire Engineering Networking Group
Please introduce yourself and what you do?
I’m an independent Fire Engineer, supporting designers and developers through my own fire safety consultancy, A W Fire Ltd. With a background in fire safety enforcement, consultancy and the insurance industry, I’m proud to be an Incorporated Engineer via the IFE, a Chartered Building Engineer via CABE and an IFE-registered fire risk assessor.
You founded and chaired the Women in Fire Engineering Networking Group (WIFENG) with the IFE. How did this come about?
Last year, I founded the Women in Fire Engineering Networking Group in partnership with the IFE. I wanted to create a support network for women in the fire industry. When I reflected on joining the industry 20 years ago, I would have benefited from having a peer group of other women fire safety professionals to talk to and learn from. I also wanted to increase the diversity of speakers and presenters at fire safety conferences and events. I would like to thank Jo Tedd, Member Experience Manager at the IFE, who was instrumental in establishing the WIFENG LinkedIn page.
In our first 12 months, the group has formed an active Committee. We established that our aim is to support, develop and inspire women in the fire industry. As well as the WIFENG LinkedIn page, we ran a series of workshops last Autumn to support individuals completing their application forms for Member grade of the IFE. It was great to see a number of women successfully gaining the MIFireE post-nominal. We also have plans to run similar workshops for IEng and CEng applicants later this year.
Something I’ve been particularly keen to promote is the visibility of women within fire safety. Representation matters; when we see someone who looks like us or has a similar story to ours in leadership, it’s easier to believe that we can progress to those levels too – “if you can see it, you can be it”. Last year, WIFENG supported London Build 2021 by providing women speakers for panel discussions and presentations on their fire safety stage. Recently, we collaborated with the organisers of Firex 2022 to increase the diversity of panel members on their discussion forums and also had a stand at the event. This was a great opportunity to network and promote the work we’re doing. We are delighted to be partnering with both events going forward. We are also in discussions with the Fire Safety Event in Birmingham and Fire Buyer Live for 2023.
WIFENG is now a group of over 500 members – that includes both women and male allies. The LinkedIn group is open to anyone in the fire industry who shares our values. Members do not have to be affiliated to a particular institution.
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