how to up the girl-factor
in your club
Text by: Mary Brown
"Excuse me, but umm, I'd just like to ask you - 'ow come you got so much crumpet in your club - we just can't seem to get any?"
This question was asked of me at a dive show a couple of years back. I could only muse that his flattering description of women may have been a subtle clue to the poor man's problem. While my own branch Clidive enjoys a healthy 50/50 male to female participation level amongst active divers it is notable that this is not a reflection of the diving community.
Currently both the British Sub Aqua Club and the Sub Aqua Association are unable to tell us what percentage of members are female.
But is it important to get more women into diving? It could be that we are just too sensible to take up a hobby that involves so much getting stuck in traffic jams, inducing of hypothermia and smudging of make up! Or could it just be that many are interested in the sport but are put off by run down facilities and a 'boys own' attitude that fails to takes us seriously?
It is certainly bad business sense for anyone to ignore 50% of the potential market. My background is in leisure centre management and over eight years ago we started to address the poor numbers of women attending our gyms. A strategy was developed which included redecoration of facilities, purchasing light weights equipment, women being used in promotional material and employing female instructors. The result was not only a huge increase in the number of female gym members - but also an increase in male participation. Perhaps the majority of men also prefer working out in well ventilated and carpeted rooms rather than smelly window-less hovels, mainly frequented by groaning muscle-bound geeks.
Personally I think it is important to maintain a healthy balance of the sexes. In a previous club I was the only woman on a couple of trips and I felt left out at times. I prefer mixed company and know it is important to others. When I've been collecting names for dive weekends, women often ask if there are other women going. Most people find large groups of the opposite sex intimidating especially if they are trying out a new adventurous sport.
It always surprises me how few women ever speak at conferences. Sylvia Earle was a notable exception at the Diving Officer's Conference a couple of years ago. Maybe men are just more self promoting but I would rather hear from Christina Campbell on her Britannic expedition than Kevin Gurr.
And the choice between Hans Hass or Lotte Hass - enough said.
There are many things that the national dive agencies and local operators could do to help improve the situation. Including women in conference line ups and having toilet paper in hardboat loos both spring to mind. But these are future subjects for a more in-depth analysis. This is purely devoted to getting more women in your club.
BSAC and the SAA are unable to provide us with figures of how many of their members are women.
BSAC guess there are around 25% and
SAA guess there are around 30%.
The percentage of worldwide first time PADI certifications awarded to women in 1996 was 34.6%. This shows a rise from 26.3% in 1984. A PADI survey from 1992 shows 17% female instructors.
- Become an instructor and/or encourage other women to get that qualification. Many women lack confidence and think you have to have been diving for 20 years, have a beer belly and know how to strip down and rebuild a compressor before they take an instructor training course.
- Advertise the fact you have female instructors - we have had feedback that this was the reason people chose our club to train with over others.
- Girl power! Get more/some women on the committee - and not just secretary or social organiser. Why not have a female Diving Officer or Equipment Officer. (Probably cos we've got more sense!)
- Make sure that you have smaller size BC's available for training - and 10 litre cylinders don't go amiss for us slight creatures.
- Don't tolerate any sexist nonsense from male members. Even if you find certain male humour absolutely hilarious be aware that newer members will just get turned off.
- Put pictures of women on your promotional posters and put them up places that women are likely to be like the female changing rooms in leisure centres.
- Give high profile to women in public relations events. If a journalist is doing a try dive make sure they are taken by a female instructor.
- Get more qualified. The power of role models is strong and clubs with women who are advanced divers and coxwains really encourage other women to advance in the sport.
- Go out of your way to make women feel welcome in the club and be as supportive as possible. Recruiting women is the easy part - keeping them in your club is much harder.
- Cultivate an atmosphere of non competivness and encourage people to voice their fears about learning to dive. The thing that most people, both men and women are scared of when learning to dive is looking stupid. Boys are often much better at appearing confident and women can feel left behind.