Another poster was quick to point out the lack of leadership roles filled by women in cave and technical diving. He looked at the TDI website and noted that six of 36 instructors in Florida are female. Global Underwater Explorers GUE does not have a female cave instructor in its ranks at time of writing. These statistics are by no means complete or fully researched, but they left me wondering why there are so few women in leadership in these technical organizations.
At the recreational diving level, DEMA reports that 35 percent of open water divers are women and that 23 percent of continuing education students are women. In leadership, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors PADI reports that there are currently over 25, women who are members at the Divemaster level and above. The reality is that less than 20 percent of PADI professionals are women.
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At the Master Instructor level, the news is even worse. According to Senior Business Analyst Sue Porter, the statistics and percentages have remained stable over the last three years. The attrition rate from entry level diving to leadership is remarkably high worldwide. I recall an early exchange on one of the first technical diving forums. There is a certain amount of conspicuous sexuality in scuba simply based on the equipment and clothing that we wear. The promotional material for the Hollywood hit, The Deep, released in , featured the female star, Jacqueline Bisset, in a wet T-shirt, and scuba diving marketers seized on her seductiveness.
The earliest diving equipment catalogs depicted brave hardhat divers exploring the ocean while sexy, bikini-clad women water-skied above them. Over the years, the industry has trended slowly towards more gender-friendly marketing, but there has been plenty of skin. Another writer was far more upset in her perception of equipment marketing with this comment.
Other sports have chosen a markedly different route. The millennial participants in snowboarding embrace loose and baggy clothing in an open attempt to disguise sexuality and gender identity.
Participants say they want to emphasize the skill of the boarder, not the perceived attractiveness and appearance of the athlete. But another reader offered the wisdom that market research drives advertising. We might be getting exactly what we are asking for. The single greatest number of complaints I received came from women who said the industry did not offer the correct, comfortable fit, or type of gear they desired.
Women often noted that they felt like manufacturers saw them as an afterthought. We used to call it the SAP Principal in the s. Recently NATO commissioned an extensive study comparing the body proportions of men and women from North America, The Netherlands, and Italy for the purpose of designing safety apparel for military personnel.
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The results of their work demonstrated a strong separation between men and women, and determined that scaled-down equipment did not adequately meet the needs of women. Rather, it actually created safety issues that could jeopardize military operations.
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Just looking at hip size alone, they realized that the design of flight, cold water immersion, and anti-g suits needed to be specifically redesigned to fit women. Women have a lower center of gravity. They have shorter torsos, longer legs, shorter lower legs, smaller waists and wider hips. They have lower volume heels, lower anklebones, and higher arches. Men have longer torsos and a lot of weight in their chests. If you find a man and woman of equal height and place them side by side, it is likely that her legs will be longer than his — and his torso will be longer than hers.
Or, if you find a man who is a little taller than a woman, you will likely find that their legs will be of equal length. Their necks are smaller too, and obviously, they have breasts that need to be accommodated into a design. Fortunately, the availability and selection of dive gear made expressly for women is on the rise. Dive shops that cater to women with gear made expressly for them, will be rewarded with customer loyalty.
Both men and women related stories of how women are pre-judged to be diving novices regardless of their certification or skill level. Recently, I was teaching a photo intern when his dive buddy came up to say hello. After the greeting, he turned to me and asked if I was diving or just hanging around.
Aside from coddling enquiring whether she needed help to carry her scooter down to the water he asked if she needed a buddy or any pointers on how to get around the flow. Some women described how they felt unwelcome at particular dive sites and on certain charter boats. They felt there was an immediate assumption that they were less skilled than their male counterparts.
Men often suggested these stories were not about gender, but rather about capability. Women countered, saying this argument was an excuse and maintained they are equally capable of participation. I recall an exchange I had checking in for a dive charter. Do you get bored waiting for them or just enjoy sunning while you wait? It was an easy enough mistake. He meant no harm, truly. I was saved from answering as we both got called up next. As long as everything is kept respectful on all sides there is nothing wrong with having a little clean fun now and then.
A pioneering woman Navy diver had a very different experience. There were times that she wished she had some attention or support from her male comrades. She was training to become a Navy diver when she very nearly flunked out of the program. I was having trouble climbing back up the ladder. I thought it was because I was not strong enough to pull myself up. The instructors told me that I had one more chance to make it before I was kicked out. One of the officer supervisors pulled me aside and told me that I was bringing my legs up high enough, but was missing the ladder rungs, going outside of them instead of hitting them.
He suggested I try to pigeon-toe my way up. So the next time I was in the tank, I did what he suggested and made it up the ladder no problem. I had to wonder why no one else made that suggestion before my two failures. A Florida charter captain said he liked to include women staff on his boat.
If everything went well this DM got great tips.
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If the shit hit the fan for any number of reasons we would still make great tips. Not so with female DMs. It seems there would be some sympathy for a female DM, even if she was doing a bad job. I do notice a little less trash talk when there are ladies on-board. For women trying to find a gender-neutral diving context, there are some strategies that were offered. They search for guidance on selecting appropriate instructors and sometimes specifically seek out other women as mentors and teachers.
Women choose to avoid certain operations, instructors, and notorious shops, rather than face discrimination or harassment. There seems to be full and immediate acceptance of a girl or woman brought to a dive shop for training by the man in their life. Most women who described discriminatory dive operations said they would never return that business. They were unforgiving of this type of behavior. These activities are not just women only. They are organized around a completely different way of enjoying the sport.
These types of activities tend to emphasize a supportive environment where a woman can expect equality and mentoring. Timid or socially uncomfortable women are encouraged to participate in these events, which are organized around common principles of recreation, fun and friendship. Some women found these events and clubs to be uninteresting or needless. Their coping strategy involves blending in and de-emphasizing gender. These same people downplay their gender, rejecting colourful equipment that may emphasize their gender. Despite a sometimes diminutive size, these women carry tanks that are just as large as those carried by their male dive buddies, who dwarf them.
They wear black gear and attempt to blend into a group. They proudly display themselves as feminine, strong and capable women. A good example is a social group called Scuba Diver Girls. These active and experienced divers flat out reject the notion that women are less capable and instead emphasize their experiences in diving. In doing so they help change the image of women in diving. On one diving forum thread, the conversation eventually came around to a long discussion about my deceased friend Agnes Milowka.
A young and talented cave diver, she paid the ultimate price and perished in an Australian cave. Her tiny, pound frame is sustained by the tank she pushes ahead of her. She just presses on, exploring in a vacuum, moving ahead because nobody has stopped her.
But despite taking risks some might call insane, she hits pay dirt and reveals another 8, feet 2,m of the mysterious conduits inside Mother Earth. The community will undoubtedly judge her actions as either heroic or psychotic. Although reliable technology and tools have increased the range of modern cave divers, some things will never change.
In writing about Agnes, I was observing a shift in technical diving. Although it may have resulted in her untimely death, there were things that were coming to the surface that I felt were really positive. Younger divers seemed to be more gender blind. There was a welcome growing perception that women explorers were not less capable than men. There was no reason to sit in the bleachers when you could take the bull by the horns and blaze a trail.
Well, she did, she died trying to prove something, like a lot of guys have done in the past. In the end, we need to be open-minded in our understanding of sexism. Men have ruled the planet for the past five million years. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. If you are offended by sexually explicit scenes, this is not for you. Will things heat up in the kitchen when Nathan finds out about Maddie's true feelings?
The DEEP series is a collection of short stories, which follows the lives of several very different women as they work, love and hate in the flourishing tourism town of Port Carne. A tight knit group of friends and co-workers, will begin to unravel as they share more than friendship deep within the sheets. Kindle Edition , 57 pages. The sea provides a limitless number of new experiences. As a dive professional who does hundreds of dives a year, you may think I have become immune to the wonder and amazement diving provides, but I am constantly marveling over new sights and new interactions.
For example, I was diving with sharks when a large, fully grown female tiger shark swam over to me, looking into my eyes with her massive ones before nudging me out of her way. We were able to coexist peacefully in her world. Intuitively, I knew she was not seeking to harm me but now I have lived it. I have had experiences many only dream of and from them I have learned to think for myself to form my own opinions. Diving is all about personal growth and development.
In challenging you to do things you find uncomfortable and allowing you to struggle until you learn to put all of the pieces together, diving helps you build confidence.