Clidive’s positive culture on gender balance

Prompted by the 2024 International Women Day theme of #InspireInclusion, we wanted to spotlight how Clidive inspires inclusion specifically towards ensuring a good gender balance.  Historically, diving has been a male-dominated sport though it’s much more balanced than it used to be. BSAC overall has 27% women1.

Clidive currently (2024) has 35% female membership, 60% committee posts are filled by women (including Diving Officer and Chair) and I’m pleased to say there are women at the most senior levels of qualification in the club: 2 First Class divers, 4 Advanced Divers, and 18 Instructors. 

I decided to speak to a number of members of their experience as to how they believe Clidive inspires inclusion:

Bec, Communications Officer

“I joined Clidive in 2014 – I can hardly believe that I’ve been diving for ten years as I still feel like a newbie compared to some other Club members. I remember there were quite a few women around the club including Joli, who took me for some of my early training including boat handling on the Thames, Elaine and Mary. Joli was also the Diving Officer at that time. I somehow got roped into being the Equipment Officer and did that for three years before moving on to Communications Officer. Being on the Committee is a really great way to get to know and shape the Club. When I started on the Committee it was majority male and it’s only in this last configuration that we’ve got a majority female Committee – the first in Clidive’s history. I feel that’s something to be celebrated. Having a more equal mix of male and female members brings a positive dynamic to the club and to dive trips and is one of our unique selling points. I often look around when we’re diving at places such as Plymouth and notice that we seem to have quite a different demographic to many other dive clubs. Seeing other women in the club, including those on the Committee, influenced my decision to stick around and I’m sure it’s the reason that we have a lot of women joining. We’ve got some great strong role models!”

Steve, Bosun

“To me Clidive inspires inclusion as it actively involves EVERYBODY at all levels wherever possible. It is heartening to see a committee that by design or otherwise is well represented by women, this ensures the club is not pale male ‘n’ stale. One of the great things about Clidive is that they have always been inclusive and this was one of the main reasons I joined having been a member of other branches of BSAC that were most definitley not inclusive. Joli, over the 20 years I have known her, has inspired me in my diving and teaching/instructing as a beacon of what best practice looks like, and she encourages ALL members to “ get stuck in” Thats true inclusion: Being invited to dance at the party. “

Cassi, Skills Development Officer

“I learnt to dive over 20 years ago, but have only been a member of Clidive for a year or so. It has been a breath of fresh air compared to some places I’ve dived, where casual (or not-so-casual) sexism has been fairly routine. In the past I have enjoyed ruffling a few male, pale, and stale feathers wearing my “woman up” t-shirt on dive trips!  One of the ways that Clidive inspires inclusivity is how visible women are in the club. From the Chair and Diving Officer to committee members, instructors and members, we are surrounded by strong female role models who support and encourage each other, in an environment that can be very male-dominated. This is part of the wider inclusive culture at the club and makes it a wonderful community to be part of.”

Clidive Webmaster Nick Barter Nick, emeritus DO, Webmaster

“I believe that the experience for anyone joining the club today would be the same in some important aspects as when I joined the club 14 years ago. I was welcomed, trained and encouraged by enthusiastic volunteers who inspired me to develop as a diver and club member. Two of the people who most encouraged and inspired me were Mary Brown and Joli Riley who were the Diving Officers in my first few years. It was really only important that they were women to the degree that they represented the inclusive culture of Clidive. And that was and is important, although to be honest I hadn’t thought about it too deeply, or even put the word inclusivity into my thinking at the time, Clidive just seemed a friendly place without egos! Ultimately their most important contribution for me was setting the example of actively including and encouraging everyone to be involved in the club whether it was learning a role on a dive trip or being ‘inspired’ (strong-armed!) to join the committee they just treated every Clidiver equally. And as one of those now responsible for doing some of that inspiring it is those club values of inclusion and equality, that everyone can and should be able to be involved in anything to do with the club, that I apply following the example they set for me.

Because club posts have limited tenures we regularly get the opportunity to introduce members who can reflect the diversity of the club into the committee and other club posts. This variety of volunteers bring different perspectives and valuable skill-sets that ultimately helps better sustain a successful club relevant to its members. In recent years we have been more conscious of ensuring a good representation of our membership in club posts. So whereas we have always naturally included a range of volunteers in running the club, there was a tendency to rely on those who stepped forward which in itself which can lead to a selection bias. There is now a conscious effort to ask people to be involved who we think will make a positive contribution. This helps us to better represent our membership in the running of our club which I would hope will improve even further how we inspire inclusion and build on the welcoming friendly club that we already are.”

Sharon, Emeritus DO

“I joined Clidive in ’93, along with Nicola Stanhope, Teresa Wallace(nee Black), Mary Kirk(nee Reilly) and Neil Dyson. We’d been in another club that hardly went diving but talked about it a lot. Fed up – we left. Clidive not only talked about diving but actually went diving. There was about 30-40 members back then with a fair amount of women even then. Clidive wasn’t a typical dive club. It was great to see more women in diving and meeting lots of different people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet. Many are still good friends to this day.” 

Joli, Emeritus DO

From my own perspective – “I learnt to dive when at uni in one of imperial colleges clubs in 1999 and the DO was female as was the only other instructor. Despite the uni having a 6:1 ratio male:female, my memory of the SCUBA club was much more balanced. I outgrew my uni club and joined Clidive in 2003 to do my Advanced Diver training : Annette was one of the only Advanced Instructors at the time and so taught me my theory lessons. It was also the men in the club like Ben, Rory, Declan, Norman that showed no bias and were always encouraging to me. I felt welcomed at the club and later that year Clidive had its first female Diving officer, Sharon. To me the demographic in the club changed to truly equal around 2012 as I can remember up until then we had hardly any female coxns and no females that would tow the boat but that shifted around that year when I became a boat handling instructor and I remember Mary (who was DO at the time) and I joking we could now theoretically put on an all female trip as we had women able, experienced and confident to do all roles needed on a trip. We never did an all female trip because I’d have hated if the guys had the same option of a men-only trip. I became a tech (trimix) diver in 2010 and before that I’d dismissed it because tech diving was so male oriented but by 2010 there was a much better ratio – on my course there were 2 out of 8. In reality, Clidive will likely not get 50% women members until UK society closes the gender pay gap (with women earning less, they have less money to spend on items like diving) and until UK society fixes making primary childcare giver gender balanced (Clidive often loses female members once they become mothers but less-so with fathers).  So 35% female membership is really a positive accolade.  I’m proud to be a member of Clidive and the way we inspire inclusivity – to all genders, ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, and all ages too.” 

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