Since 2015, on the 3rd Saturday in July PADI celebrates Women’s Dive Day. This event honours women’s underwater achievements and dedication to the ocean. It is a time to “big up” female scientists, instructors, conservationists, dive centre managers, explorers, photographers and their accompanying strength of mind, spirit and determination. Over the years I have heard some men saying that they feel it is a sexist event and ask “why isn’t there a PADI Men’s Day?” Well lads, diving was primarily a men’s sport for many years. Back in the day it involved heavy equipment that was designed to fit only the men who dominated the sport. Of course, women need role models too! Now is the time to celebrate inclusion and how the diving community has evolved over the years.
I am testament of how difficult it can be for a woman to move up the ranks and become a leader in her field. I was a technical diving instructor in Egypt for many years and - while I passed every exam, practical application and course with flying colours - there was never any denying the look in some male students faces when they realised their instructor was going to be a lady. Shock horror - women can and do lift their own gear, blend gases and understand physics! While the sea, lakes and quarries couldn’t give a hoot what your sex, religion or colour is, from my perspective there is nothing wrong in celebrating diversity.
Sadly - like any sport - there can also be bullies, negative attitudes and those that apply peer pressure in diving. This is why groups like Girls That Scuba and Miss Scuba.com are popular. They have created a safe space for female divers - such as those who may be new to the sport or perhaps don’t have a buddy - to meet other female divers and ask questions. They are places where women can engage with each other without fear of reproach and can access information about equipment, skills and female-friendly destinations for example. These platforms are places women can empower each other and command respect!
The Women Divers Hall of Fame is also worth mentioning here. This is a non-profit organisation recognising the contributions of female pioneers, leaders and innovators in the many fields of diving. They award scholarships and training grants in the SCUBA community, to help women fund research projects or pursue a career in diving. Each year they “induct” new members who have made outstanding contributions to the ocean and diving community. Today there are 250 members hailing from 30 U.S. states and territories and 22 countries worldwide.
Since 2015 nearly 4000 Women’s Dive Day events have taken place across 183 countries. These have included clean ups, intro dives, fundraising and record breaking activities, among others. To take part in a virtual event or a socially-distanced event local to you this July 17th, look on the dedicated PADI website page. Even if you are a fella, sign up to help protect the ocean and together the diving community will be stronger!