Diversity in the Fire Service: A Problem or a Solution?

Issue 10 and Volume 161.

BY JOHN J. McNEIL The concept of diversity in the fire service can be thought of in different ways. Diversity considerations can range from cultural (nationality, religion, and language) to subcultural (age, gender, and community) to individual (personal traits and learning styles). Perspectives regarding the impact of diversity in the fire service vary from causing adversity and ineffectiveness in the organization to providing a position of strength and success through collective intelligence. No matter what your perspective may be on diversity, it is an issue that can evoke emotions. THE PROBLEM Some perceive diversity in the fire service as a management nightmare. The idea of bringing together people of different nationalities, languages, religious beliefs, ages, genders, sexual orientation, and personalities to work effectively and accomplish something seems to be impossible and ridiculous. The diversification of members within an organization can be further complicated and convoluted by mixtures of cultures within…

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