Women in diving: ‘We’ve seen the tide turn’ 

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by Steve Weinman

PADI’s Senior Director of Environment & Sustainability KATIE THOMPSON was in at the start of the training agency’s Women In Diving initiative 10 years ago and the stats appear to indicate that it has been a big success. Female certifications are rising faster than men’s – but now the challenge is to see more women through to Rescue Diver and professional level, as she explains to Steve Weinman

Women In Diving: Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson

“After a decade, we’ve seen the tide turn,” says Katie Thompson. That’s how long it’s been since the “Women in Diving” initiative, including its flagship annual event PADI Women’s Dive Day (which falls on 20 July this year), was identified as a solution to increasing female involvement in the dive industry. The initiative was launched in 2015. 

“When we dived into the data a decade ago, we knew that we could do something to break down barriers and make diving more welcoming for women,” says Katie. “We took stock of the messaging and imagery that women were exposed to in and around the entire dive industry – if they were seeing it all – and started making some quick changes.

Women In Diving

“PADI started speaking to her and aimed to empower females everywhere by inviting them to explore the underwater world. When you don’t see your likeness represented, whether that pertains to gender, race, age or ethnicity, it can create the perception that you don’t belong in that space, or will not be welcomed there.

“So I don’t believe the gender gap in diving is related to reluctance per se, but more so a number of factors including cultural and social norms, perceptions of physical demands and representation in the industry.” 

Progress to pro level

The numbers are evidence that this personalised approach is working, says Katie, with PADI female certifications now growing faster than men’s. “But it’s the individual stories of women’s lives changed by becoming a diver and taking their first breath under water – from Saudi Arabia to the Gili Islands – that will warm your heart. 

“Dive instructors and PADI dive-centres and resorts all around the world have made this movement their own, and there are more women of all ages diving today than there were ever before.”

Women In Diving

“It’s not uncommon for recreational certifications of female divers to outpace those of males, but there is more work needed to continue to grow the community of female divers at the professional level,” says Katie, explaining that at present women account for only 20% of PADI professionals.  

“We are now seeing the pay-off of the past ten years, as there are now more female PADI professionals paying it forward by turning their passion into purpose and creating more opportunities for female divers to rise in the ranks.”

By way of example, she cites PADI Platinum Course Director Kerrie Eade of UK dive-centre Ocean Turtle Diving, who is running an all-female PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) this year in Spain, followed by a PADI Instructor Exam on Women’s Dive Day. PADI is hoping to support with a female Instructor Examiner.

Positive outdoor experiences

Through diving, women are gaining confidence, developing resilience and finding empowerment in pushing beyond perceived limitations, says Katie. “We see these words come up repeatedly in their own social posts. Research has found that positive outdoor experiences can increase a woman’s self-valuation, self-confidence and belief in her ability to lead, and also helps to foster “social connectedness”. 

Women In Diving

“Collectively, women in the outdoors, above and below the surface, is good for society overall and PADI is proud to play a leadership role to support creating balance between humanity and the ocean.

“Under water we all speak the same language – our highest ambition is to make the underwater world accessible for everyone to explore and protect, whether you’re a snorkeller, freediver, mermaid or scuba diver.”

Using PADI’s statistics for entry-level and continuing-education scuba certifications only, it is apparent that progress is subject to geographical variations. “The gender gap in dive certifications varies widely by region, with female recreational dive certifications ranging from just 34.7% of entry-level and continuing education scuba certifications in Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) to 43.5% in Asia Pacific,” says Katie. 

“In the Americas, female recreational dive certifications account for 38.4% of certifications. The global average is 40.1%.” 

Women In Diving

Since the Women In Diving initiative to elevate female divers and nurture a more inclusive dive community was launched in 2015, the overall gender gap has narrowed from a 36:64 female to male ratio to 40:60 overall. Across all three regions the gender gap has narrowed by 3-4%. 

South American inspiration

Certain parts of the world stand out, however. “Colombia has become a more equitable country, with several female dive-centre owners or managers,” says Katie. “These women serve as inspiring role-models, breaking barriers and reshaping the diving community – which has led to 42% of all Colombian recreational certifications being female. 

“This, in turn, has boosted more female professional certifications, placing it at 20%, thus creating a virtuous circle.”

“The other major factor has been the inclusion of diving as a mandatory subject in some universities in countries like Chile, which has led to the creation of more female divers with a professional focus, resulting in 26% of the country’s professional certifications being female.

Women In Diving

“This, along with female empowerment, the recognition of the capabilities of female professionals, and campaigns like PADI Women’s Dive Day, has been the soul of this change.”

The one in five ratio of women to men among PADI professionals provides “a particularly important indicator to the overall effectiveness of PADI’s efforts in creating a more inclusive and balanced dive industry,” says Katie. 

“The percentage continues to grow each year, as more and more women challenge gender stereotypes to lead successful careers in the diving industry.

“Females in leadership roles at a PADI dive-centre or resort, or females holding a professional credential, inclusive of PADI Divemaster through to the highest level of PADI Course Director, raise the visibility and representation of women globally in the sport. 

“Collectively they serve as vital role-models for the next generation and are critical to inspiring more women to start diving and, in most cases, supporting them in their journey to continue their dive education or the choice to become a teaching professional.”

Individual efforts

Women In Diving

Katie offers an example of an individual diver who has made a difference. “In 2009, Nouf Alosaimi from Saudi Arabia completed her Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) and Open Water Diver Certification before becoming a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor, Tec Diving Instructor, and PADI AmbassaDiver. 

“She has made a career out of scuba diving, supporting environmental change at international conferences and promoting women’s empowerment from her dive-centre in Saudi Arabia, Red Sea Citizen.”

But the impetus doesn’t always begin with a female diver. “In a concerted effort to address the low representation of female divers in Kerala, India, PADI Instructor Joseph Daleesh and the dedicated team at Aqua Leo Dive Centre organised a transformative event in 2023,” says Katie. “They offered a complimentary DSD experience in a local pool, aiming to ignite the passion for diving among women in their community. 

Women In Diving

“Recognising the significance of spreading the word, they collaborated with a local radio station to promote this celebration of Women’s Dive Day.

“These kinds of efforts are led by male and female PADI professionals from all corners of the globe, not only on Women’s Dive Day but all year, helping increase the diversity, inclusivity and belonging in diving but, most importantly, throughout the community.”

Women’s Dive Day

So how much of a contribution does the big event itself make to boosting certifications?

“While it’s hard to attribute specific cause, we have seen a positive trend in female certifications since the campaign launched ten years ago,” says Katie. “PADI members around the world have embraced the initiative and continue to host PADI Women’s Dive Day events around the world each July, in the most celebrated day of diving on the planet.”

Women In Diving

While there is clearly enthusiastic support for Women’s Dive Day in many parts of the world, I point out that, taking the UK as a close-to-home example, there never seems to be that wide a choice of events to preview on Divernet.

“Women’s Dive Day has seen adoption both through in-person events and online/social media participation around the world – including the UK,” Katie pushes back. She cites PADI 5* centre Dorset Diving’s past wreck-diving celebration of the day, DiveUK Falmouth for hosting a 24-hour snorkelling marathon to raise money for breast cancer awareness in 2023, and Cornish Diving Centre’s hosting of a Dive Against Debris event. 

“While events are still being planned for 2024, PADI dive-centres such as Scuba Blue in Somerset are currently lining up their events,” says Katie – so we’ll look forward to seeing how many events across the UK appear on this year’s events notice-board.

With the outlook for women in diving apparently rosy, is misogyny no longer a problem in 2024? “When we see the stories and lives transformed by females certified on Women’s Dive Day, it seems very clear that there has been a sea change regarding gender acceptance in diving,” says Katie.

“While the initiative will never singularly eradicate a systemic issue that still exists in society at large, it certainly does not discourage us. It’s an ongoing journey that will continue to evolve and change over time and we accept the challenge to always try to be better than we were yesterday.”

Rescue Diver

Women In Diving

What are PADI’s ambitions now in terms of levelling up the genders? “We aim to empower more women to continue their education and earn their PADI Rescue Diver certification. It is such an important level for all divers to reach, to develop the confidence and competence in their own skills and their ability to assist others when needed.

“Many women claim that what they learn in their rescue course makes them the best diver they can be, and builds confidence that becoming a professional is a real possibility for them.”

Recruitment apart, what have been the most significant changes over the past 10 years? “Women of all ages have been empowered to elevate their voices and to take a leading role in saving the ocean. There is a collective movement to inspire others to join them in their passion to dive, travel and celebrate the ocean.

Women In Diving

“Female-led groups like Girls That Scuba and Scuba Diver Girls have filled a critical gap and have established diving communities that successfully connect women divers around the world to the sport and to each other.

“We will continue our efforts to reduce the gender gap across all levels, with a heightened focus on how we motivate and inspire females to keep diving and continue their dive education. We need more female role-models represented at all levels of the sport, inspiring others to start, keep or teach diving.”

Click the panel below to find out more about participating in Woman’s Dive Day:

Women In Diving

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This week, it looks like DPV manufacturer ScubaJet has begun insolvency proceedings. PADI has distributed half a million dollars in their Project Aware campaign. Dorset coastguard have called off the search for a missing diver. And the Pearl Fleet has commented on a viral video of a shark-dive that didn’t go so well
https://taucher.net/diveinside-insolvency_proceedings_at_scubajet-kaz9246
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/conservation/padi-aware-distributes-500k-in-mission-hub-grants/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/raid-launches-ots-full-face-mask-programme/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/dorset-coastguard-call-off-search-for-diver/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/search-for-diver-off-dorset-stood-down/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/pearl-fleet-hits-back-as-maldives-shark-dive-slammed/
Diving Into The Darkness Link:
https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/mzsd


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#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
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Diving Into The Darkness Website:
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@emilyZA460
#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
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Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
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What's the Point of Fancy dSMBs? #askmark #scuba

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