I would like to raise a few points about women in diving and why this is even a topic. As female scuba diving instructors we see this all the time. Come down to the shop meet the students, and some male students will not only be shocked but can look absolutely horrified that they are about to put their lives in the hands of a small female. Let’s lay it all out here and tell you that not only do women make fantastic divers and instructors but we are also highly effective in the business of diving!
Let’s look at women as divers:
Women have a few physical traits that can make them better divers.
Women’s bodies are more suited for diving
When it comes to air consumption, women tend to have the advantage. We are often physically smaller than men, have a smaller lung capacity, and less muscle mass. It is not a guarantee, but for new divers, especially, it is likely that we will have more air left in our cylinders than men will.
Women also seem to have more control over their own buoyancy as a diver. This could be contributed to the fact that women have higher body fat, making us a bit more buoyant. Because of this women sometimes learn how to control buoyancy as swimmers making it much easier when learning to dive.
Women are more safety conscious
This is a neurological trait. Typically, women can be seen as ‘damsels in distress’, or, in a stressful situation, some may think that women will just fall apart and break down, whereas men take charge and become the heroes. Studies are showing that this may be untrue. Mara Mather, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of southern California and Ruud van den Bos, a neurobiologist at Radboud University found then when in stressful situation men are more likely to take risks. This can be due to a natural chain reaction of hormones. First the stress hormone cortisol is released, followed by testosterone, concluding with adrenaline, this can be a hormonal cocktail for bad and risky decision making. Whereas women tend to become more risk alert in stressful situations and tend to look at the bigger picture more so than the immediate reward. This can be very valuable in diving, especially in the beginning. As a new diver you are completely out of your natural element. We hear it all the time as divers that if you experience stress underwater, what you must do first is stop, think and then act! Given our neurological make up, this is a bit more likely for women to do than men.
Women have Natural Navigation in Scuba Diving
On land men may have women beat on this one, and it is an old stereotypical joke that women cannot navigate. Well men, again, in diving, we have you beat here. Marine Scientist, Mandy Shackleton, led a two year study on scuba divers. The findings were that women have greater awareness of what is going on around them in a smaller setting and tend to use cues that are in their immediate vicinity for navigation. Which in diving can be very beneficial.
Women as scuba diving instructors
Women are patient, understanding, and honestly we can make you tough. Why? Because this industry was tough on us and we often have to quickly adopt a ‘no bullshit’ attitude if we want to make it as a dive instructor. We have to lift as many tanks as the boys, we have to clean as many dirty regulators and we have to deal with all kinds of students, even the ones that doubt us.
If you are a female student, then it’s a win-win, if I can be a dive instructor, you can be a diver. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘it’s too tough’ or ‘it’s a bit more of a man sport’. We are happy to listen to your fears and we understand. If you are a man and you are having trouble, first off we may just tell you to ‘man up’ but if the tough love approach doesn’t work, don’t worry we will be more than willing to hold your hand as well. Ever thought of becoming a diving instructor?
Check this video and see one of the best female IDC Candidates learning to become amazing diving instructors:
Diving is becoming easier for women
Diving has always been a male dominated sport, we know this. Women now make up 40% of the dive community which is quite an accomplishment. There are some things that are making it more attainable.
Dive Equipment for women scuba divers
For years dive equipment was more geared towards men and men’s physics, making it much more of a challenge for women to find gear that would fit and work comfortably for them. Now almost all major scuba equipment brands have multiple women’s BCD’s, wetsuits and masks that work much better for our body types.
Social and community support
It still is quite common for a woman to walk into a dive club or class and be the only female present. But now with social media and such it is making it much easier for us to find each other. Whether you are looking for a female diving instructor or just looking for a dive buddy in your location. One of the best Facebook groups about this is Girls That Scuba and their Girls that Scuba website. This is a safe non-judgemental place where you can ask anything about diving, from ‘will a shark attack you if you are on your period?’, to safe places for solo females to go travel and scuba dive.
A final Thought
Regardless of preconceptions that scuba diving is male dominated, women have a huge place in the scuba diving world. Some of the advantages mentioned above as well as the general suitability of scuba diving for women. At Sairee Cottage Diving, we are a very successful and functional team of diving staff that work along side each other regardless of gender. So don’t miss out on an ancient notion and join other successful women in diving as a career or just learn to dive and explore the underwater world with us!
Have any experiences you would like to share? Please leave a comment below.
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer & DM Mentor
Sairee Cottage Diving
PADI 5 Star IDC Centre
Koh Tao, Thailand