Written by Megan Denny
The average entry-level diver is 27-30 years old, college educated, and male (60 percent are male). For many years the gender ratio of 65 percent male versus 35 percent female remained constant. However, there’s been a shift in the past five years and women now make up 40 percent of new divers. That’s good progress, but the pool of potential women divers is still massive.
An average female consumer is an ideal scuba diving customer. The numbers don’t lie.
- Women are the decision makers for 85 percent of household purchases and have $125 billion US annual spending power (source: Forbes).
- Nearly two-thirds of travelers today are women, and 54 percent of travelers with annual incomes of $250,000+ US are women (source: The Boston Globe).
- A 2016 study revealed women are 25-30 percent more likely than men to recommend a business to friends and family.
Major companies, such as Nike and the PGA (Professional Golfers Association) are taking statistics like these to heart. After Nike chose to focus on women, sales jumped 20 percent and Nike expects revenue from women’s apparel more than double in five years. The PGA recently launched a campaign to increase women’s participation in golf – an industry that is in decline. Only 19 percent of all golfers are women, and PGA research shows, “there are millions of women who want to participate in golf, but they don’t feel welcome. They haven’t been invited.”
Make Women Feel Welcome
Many of the things that make your business female-friendly are just plain smart business practices including:
- Offer PADI eLearning® – Working women and those trying to balance family commitments will appreciate this flexible, go-at-your-own-pace option.
- Keep it clean – Many people, not just women, think negatively about a business with a dingy bathroom or changing room. If you’d think twice about showing your mother your facilities, it’s time to spruce up the place.
- Invite them back – Get in touch with women who’ve dropped out of scuba diving and invite them back by promoting ReActivate®.
- Stock women’s gear – Having dive gear and other products designed for women available is welcoming.
One of the most effective ways to bring in new female divers is by asking current customers to invite other women to try diving. Be upfront: let them know you’re trying to change the perception that scuba is for old guys. Ask what you could do to bring in more women and offer an incentive. The results will pay off.
“Camaraderie keeps women diving, buying gear, taking trips,” says Chelsea Cameron, Sales and Marketing Manager for The Diving Locker in Vancouver, Canada. “There’s one group of ladies at our store that went to Cozumel together and they‘re like the three amigas. They’ve been doing courses together, they all bought dry suits together and they egg each other on.”
Female Staff and Instructors are Essential
“Having female staff helps to draw in more female divers. They feel more comfortable when they see other women in the sport. Especially when fitting gear, there are things guys don’t think of, especially with getting into wetsuits,” says Cameron.
Virginia Watson, Marketing Manager at Dive Otago, New Zealand echoes this sentiment. “Having a mix of male and female instructors enables us to provide good role models for female divers that are just beginning in their dive career. They see that even in our harsher conditions, women are more than capable of diving day in day out.”
Women make up at least half the staff at both Dive Otago and The Diving Locker and research proves this is a smart idea for any business.
- An economist from Carnegie Mellon found teams with at least one female member had a collectively higher IQ than male-only teams.
- When Fortune 500 companies had at least three female directors, the return on capital, sales and return on equity increased by 40 percent or more.
- Studies from a variety of industries found that having a larger number of women on a team accounts for greater psychological safety, team confidence, group experimentation and team efficiency.
Greg Kocher owner and president of The Diving Locker notes, “I’ve been in business for 50 years and I’ve always tried to promote scuba to different age groups and demographics. I have eight full time employees and half of them are women. It’s proven to be a good model. I’ve been in business so long because of the exceptional staff.”
At Broadreach, a youth educational adventure company, 75 percent of headquarters employees are women and 62 percent of their dive staff are female. “Having so many women in leadership and instructor roles makes us a very adaptable company, as we’re all coming to the table with different points of view. It makes us better problem solvers and communicators, plus it gives us stronger collaborative spirit,” says Creative Director Ladye Jane Vickers.
Kate Farthing, Director of Field Operations at Broadreach adds, “Our programs have attracted more female students each year, and having females working in the industry is often encouraging to parents trying to support their young women as they reach for their goals. The ability to understand, support and encourage our female students is really rewarding and I think sits well with our clients.
“Female dive staff, for lack of a better way to put this, can help ease the concerns of female participants in ways that male instructors have a harder time with. Getting in and out of wetsuits, lugging gear around, what do I do if I’m on my period…all of these things are so naturally facilitated by female dive instructors (not to say that guys aren’t able) but it’s important to have both so all students feel comfortable sharing their concerns and finding solutions.”
Marketing to Women
Virginia Watson from Dive Otago shared this tip: “Championing female divers on Facebook is an awesome way to boost enrollment numbers organically. When we are actively looking to increase female numbers through paid advertising we specifically target that demographic and use images of inspiring female divers. People need to identify themselves in the imagery so including photos of woman in all areas of your marketing should also help… it might inadvertently pull in more males too!”
Check out: 7 Women in Diving Everyone Should Know or female PADI AmbassaDiver™
The Family Factor
Roughly half of women of childbearing age are mothers, and some PADI® Dive Centers have found success partnering with a child-care service or hiring a babysitter. This helps mom take a breather (off a regulator) while she does a scuba review, and gives parents a chance to enjoy time together as a couple.
Another popular way to attract mothers and families is by offering kids scuba programs and selling products that cater to divers with children. “We run a week-long scuba camp for kids 10-15 years old four times during the summer. Predominantly, three women teach the camp, and they enjoy doing it. But all of our staff are involved in teaching, selling, and running weekend trips,” says Kocher of The Dive Locker.
Broadreach Dive Instructor Hannah Tannenbaum shared her thoughts on the benefits of scuba for girls and young women, “Diving is empowering because it’s an entirely new realm in which social pressures and appearance don’t matter. All that matters is your safety, awareness, and immense humility in acknowledging we are such a small piece of this wide and beautiful world, and that our stresses and day-to-day problems don’t matter as much in the face of a sea turtle. I love teaching young women to dive and seeing them develop a new sense of self and gratitude for their world which diving opens.”
Build a Community
A study from Indiana University on exercise habits found that people with a regular gym buddy experienced only a 6.3 percent dropout rate after twelve months compared to a 43 percent dropout rate for people who worked out alone. Help female divers stay active by starting a “Diva Dive Club,” or a PADI Pro mentorship program.
Kate Farthing from Broadreach notes, “The mere presence of our female staff offers such a great vision of the future to our students. They know being a dive professional isn’t such a far off goal. Many of our dive instructors began as Broadreach students in middle school and worked their way to being instructors by the age of 18. Our students really build lore around the instructors who have been around Broadreach since they started diving and think they are the coolest of the cool. It’s an easy thing to aspire to.”
Nondiving events (beach parties, bar nights, clean-up events, etc.) can help divers – male or female – connect with new dive buddies. Encourage customers to invite female friends who are curious about diving, but aren’t ready to sign up for a class. Scuba diving can seem intimidating, but meeting fun and supportive divers can quickly shatter that perception.
If you’re interested in bringing more women into diving, use PADI Women’s Dive Day on 15 July as a kickoff event. Dive Otago plans to offer free Discover Scuba® Diving sessions, high tea and tutus. Broadreach has numerous Women’s Dive Day activities planned including a thank you celebration for their female staff and live-streamed dives.
Get started at the PADI Pros’ Site Women in Diving page
Trying something new can be intimidating – for potential female divers and business owners. But when more women dive, it’s a win-win. Here are some parting words from Chelsea Cameron at The Dive Locker, “When you’re out on a dive with more female divers it’s more low pressure, people are more comfortable sharing stories. Having more women is great for the shop the atmosphere. We enjoy it a lot, we have fun, we keep the guys in check.”