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Invisible Divers

Women in Diving initiative that we are piloting in 2023. It’s also a homage to Caroline Criado Perez’s excellent book Invisible Women.

A bit of background

At our AGM held at the end of 2022, we extracted some statistics about the female and male divers in our club.

The ratio of our female instructors is quite low, with some 25% of our active Open Water Instructors (and above) being women.

It gets somewhat better if we look at the number of qualified diving members in our club. Approximately 40% of members are women.

Despite this, the most interesting statistic is that our female diving members were the most active in 2022.

Out of some 550 club dives last year, more than half of these dives were undertaken by women.


This begs the question, is the diving community and industry at large catering to the needs of our women?


In short, no. At least not in a meaningful way.

The history of women and diving

A little while ago, some of our members tuned into a virtual talk about women and diving.

Whilst it was about the role of some pioneering women in scuba, at the end of the virtual session, one of the questions asked was ‘why there were fewer women divers compared to men divers?’.

The (male) spokesperson suggested that it was because women don’t like wreck diving, and the (female) spokesperson agreed...


Whilst we can (hopefully) assume it was intended to be a throwaway comment, and (probably) a joke, it’s indicative of a far wider problem, and it raises significant concerns.


It plays into some worrying stereotypes about women. For example, wrecks are big and bulky, and so women prefer prettier things, like colourful fish and reefs.

Some of our female diver heroes

We all know that these stereotypical perceptions are untrue, baseless, and there is no evidence whatsoever.

Indeed, there have been many female pioneers to the world of diving who have made significant contributions, to name a few:


In her excellent book, Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez explains about the unintentional male bias in data that has ignored the needs of women in almost all aspects of our lives – from public policy, workspaces, the media, to product design, technology and health and medical research.



Criado Perez sets out a plethora of examples in her book.
Taking her principles and arguments, these can be applied to other area in our lives and society. So what about scuba diving?


The data-gap in SCUBA diving

We decided we wanted to know more about the scientific data available for and about women who dive.

From what we can deduce, it is apparent that pretty much all of the research that underpins the tables and algorithms in dive tables and dive computers was conducted on men i.e. white, male, young, fit (typically men in the navy), AND... wait for it... goats!


Yep, you heard right.


Where then is the research on women and diving?


Whilst there has been research on women, menstruation and diving, it appears to be somewhat ad hoc, and “few and far between”.


Rather worryingly, it appears that (very likely) none of it has made its way to dive tables and computers in a meaningful way i.e. that goes to address women’s health and well-being. (At the end of this blog we list a sample of the research we’ve located thus far...)

Equipment and design

Women have different skeletal and muscle design, and overall vastly different bodies to men both inside and out.

Has there been any consideration of women in the design of cylinders, regulators, mouthpieces, weight belts, jackets, suits?


In our club, we face an uphill battle that there is never enough small fin sizes for women in our kit box. Or more precisely, fins that properly fit women’s feet. Masks are also an issue.


Finding the right sizes and shape of fins and masks to purchase is so difficult. This is because they all tend to cater for men’s bodies. And this applies to all pieces of diving kit.


The apparent “lazy” approach that manufacturers try to address women’s so-called needs is the “pinking and shrinking”. The insinuation is that if dive kit is made to look “pretty”, then women are probably going to be interested in purchasing the kit.

Whilst this approach is highly irritating (and unhelpful) for almost every female diver we know, ultimately it fails to solve the critical issue: not enough thought has gone into women when designing equipment.


It adds up to one thing: women are practically invisible when it comes to diving.
It’s not to say that male divers or anyone in particular are to blame. It’s systemic and it's everywhere. It’s what Criadio Perez terms “the unintentional male basis”.
It’s not done on purpose. But when you realise it, you cannot ever un-see it again.
Our scuba diving community is quite small and tight-knit in the UK.


Is there something we can do about it?

Taking action

We have put together a very small questionnaire, and at the beginning of the dive season in 2023 we want to encourage both women and men to complete it after every dive.

It is designed with some really simple questions about how you feel, perhaps what equipment you used. It’s still under development and fundamentally it is a pilot and a bit of an experiment.

And given that most of the dives we did last year were by our female members, it is all the more important to better understand the data gap.


We have to start somewhere, and our hunch is that is likely to open up conversations and hopefully lead to small actions, which has the potential to lead to meaningful change for women, and in fact everyone.


So we are asking for the club’s feedback as we want it to be a live project.


At a time when the wider BSAC membership is falling, the aim is not to police or criticise. But to simply recognise and understand – and it may bring more women into the sport – and into our club and other clubs.

If we start to attend to the needs of the other 50% of the population (i.e. women) in a meaningful way, then you start to realise there are also needs to address of other invisible groups. These could relate to disabilities, ethnicity, age, sexuality, gender re-assignment and so on. The issues can be complex, and whilst we can’t solve everything in our club, we can start somewhere.

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