Is it Still a Man’s World?

Article By Karen Erens

PADI women dive day, girls that scuba, women in diving, …


All these groups are only focused on female divers.

Why is it so important to have these women-specific events or groups?

Is it because the diving world still is dominated by men? Is it still considered a male sport?

Or do these groups exist just because there’s a need for girl power?


I did some research and found some numbers:

“For many years, the gender ratio of 65 per cent male versus 35 per cent female remained constant. However, there’s been a

shift in the past five years; women now make up 40 per cent of new divers. That’s good progress, but the pool of potential

women divers is still massive.”


So that’s still a big group of non-divers out there. It might be exciting for your business to focus on this big group of potential women divers.


I am a woman, 45 years old. I have worked in the dive business for ten years and still love the job. When I learned about diving, I (also) had the wrong idea that scuba diving is a male sport.


But it is not like that; there’s no competition underwater, and this is 1 of the very few sports where women have an advantage over men. Women usually dive longer with one tank than men; physically, our lungs are a bit smaller than the lungs of a man, so with the same tank, we, women, have the advantage of using less air and thus being able to stay a more extended time underwater.


So I don’t have to carry around those extra big and heavy tanks; a smaller version is perfectly fine for me so I can stay underwater as long as my male buddies.


But still, I carried and filled many tanks, rinsed the equipment after each dive, and got cold while teaching in wintertime in the EU. I have to admit there are a lot of physical exercises connected to the job of a scuba dive instructor or dive shop manager. There’s always a need to fill tanks, carry tanks or clean the pool. I see it as a daily (and paid) workout and keeping up with my male colleagues. So you don’t need to go to any sports school/gym when the working in the scuba day job is finished. And of course, the significant advantage of it: you stay in shape!


I started diving when wetsuits were still “unisize”. The exact suit/sizing was used for male and female divers. Everybody knows that there’s a difference in body shape between a man and a woman. So that unisize suit never fitted well, and I was cold just by entering the water. How could I convince other women to start diving by telling them they would be freezing out there? Nowadays, all brands have adapted wetsuits (and dry suits) with sizes for every body shape, tall or short, woman or man. Some companies even make dry suits to measure. An Austrian company called Camaro, producing only neoprene gear for divers and snorkelers, has up to 15 sizes in just female suits, even offering special Queen sizes! There is no need to get a suit made to measure; Camaro has so many sizes; you are sure to find your size these days within the products produced, even 1-3-5-7mm suits and dry suits. And they are convinced about the products they manufacture as they offer a unique 3 year warranty ‘no questions asked’…


Taking us a step further: there is even a brand that sells BCDs with integrated breast cups for women, and lovely colours are everywhere to be found! Go diving in style!


So, a bad-fitting wetsuit is no excuse anymore not to dive. But still, the scuba diving business is a men’s world.


I have been in the dive industry full-time and 100% professional for ten years. I visited and participated in many dive shows and travelled to tropical and less tropical destinations. I dived in old mines, quarries and murky waters, during which about 90% of my buddies were male.




Many of these men are into Technical diving, of which the image is that of cool, big men in black suits, carrying several tanks and messaging to dive very deep.


Maybe other male divers are attracted by this image and might have this image as an example when they start scuba diving. Still, perhaps this image gets these days so well connected with general recreational scuba diving that it scares people away, like women, in general, wishing to take the first course of scuba diving?


Are we all using the wrong media to get women into scuba?

Or is it just the physical barrier that keeps them away from scuba diving?


Another point is that women are diving for other reasons than men. I wanted to experience and learn from all the difficult dive situations within my local scuba community. However, still, I prefer diving in tropical waters on a nice reef, searching for some extraordinary underwater life. Most female divers I encountered, trained and guided worldwide shared my motivations, ideas and reasons for scuba diving.


Why is “mermaid” so popular with little girls? As a male diver, you might laugh at this idea, but every girl dreams at a certain age of becoming a beautiful princess or mermaid, like how almost every young boy dream of being a pilot, fireman or police officer? Or what was your childhood hero?


Don’t forget those little girls in their mermaid tales; learn to be very comfortable in the water, which makes the next step so much easier, learning to scuba dive. They start liking the water, and that’s what we all do when going into scuba diving.


Another thing about being a female instructor (and not only females) is being patient and understanding a student’s fears and talking about them. In this way, your students will always find ways to deal with it. Many things are obvious for us dive instructors, but sometimes you need to take a step back and understand why a student has problems with the depth, the fish or something else. From the moment you’ll find out, you can solve the problem.


But usually, the problem is… time! It would help if you had time to have your students get used to breathing underwater, starting to get faith in themselves and the equipment used in scuba. Once they make the “click”, they usually get addicted to diving. But time is money, so many students having just one of those issues drop out in the group courses provided on holiday destinations. Mostly they will never dive again, so the dive business loses a valuable customer.


But suppose you spend time with them, and they will become certified divers. In that case, they are so grateful for having succeeded in this challenging step of getting trust underwater, and they want to dive, relax, and enjoy the underwater life. And you will have gained a lifetime customer.


When I see this happening, that makes my day!

It is also a challenge for you, the instructor! That’s why I teach scuba!


So, my point is that women have a different approach to scuba diving and a more subtle way of teaching, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is just the female touch. You need time to take the time with any dive student that needs it. Every student is different; never forget! If you do not take the time THEY need, they will have the worst experience and will never try to learn scuba diving again. Male or female!


A few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet a dive centre in Curaçao run by women. Goby Divers is known for their women instructors and women’s approach. It’s a lovely dive centre near the beach with a small shop. Goby Divers created an amiable and open atmosphere in their dive centre with a good balance of male and female instructors in their team. I am sure it helps to attract female divers if they see female staff working in the dive centre. It can help ease the women’s specific concerns about female divers in ways that male instructors have a more challenging time dealing with. Getting in and out of wetsuits, lugging gear around, what to do if I am on my period… all of these things are so naturally facilitated by female instructors (not to say guys aren’t able to do the same). Still, having both around is essential, so all students feel comfortable sharing their concerns and finding solutions.


Looking at your scuba business, it is wise and exciting to direct some arrows toward the woman’s target audience; I already mentioned there’s still a big group of non-female-divers out there. And believe me, if mama is convinced and likes scuba diving, she will probably free up some budget for an introduction dive for the kids on their birthdays in your dive centre.


But you must be women-friendly and make women feel welcome in your dive centre.


Do you offer male and female wetsuits for diving? Are you selling nice pink-coloured dive equipment or the extra warm neoprene bathing suits to wear underneath the wetsuit? Do you have separate changing rooms? And a clean toilet? Is your marketing adapted to a woman?


If you need some help, reach out to ScubaBiz.Help, and we will help you. Our team has male and female staff members because we are here to help satisfy you, become more successful and expand your business by being more women-friendly is for sure a part of that!


So, there might be a difference in interest between male and female divers (as in other parts of life), and in my view, that’s just fine! Because don’t forget about the X and Y chromosomes!

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