In 1979, Susan Bangasser and Jeanne Bear Sleeper published the first book to specifically reach women divers. In 1992, Ella Jean Morgan and Erin O’Neill published When Women Dive. They were way ahead of their time. All inaugural inductees into the Women Divers Hall of Fame, they are true pioneers in our industry.
In the late 1990s, my dear friend Patty Mortara and I were lamenting the lack of resources and connections between the very few female technical divers around the world. With Velora Peacock, we started an organization called Cardea 2000, in the hopes that we could better connect women ted divers around the world by the turn of the century. Patty and I started a magazine called Women Underwater in order to further that cause. Edited and printed in small numbers we mailed out the quarterly around the world until we ran out of money to do it. We shared stories about expeditions, gear and resources with our growing community of women technical divers. I knew one day I would dust off that concept. Writing Women Underwater with Renee Power is very much the result of that dream.
In the current era of women’s rights and feminism, many of us seek to diminish the differences between genders and instead fight for true equality. As such, I have been questioned about why I would want to separate women and men in the field of diving. I’ve received a few angry emails suggesting that this effort sets back attempts at gaining equality. Recently, I got a Facebook note from a man who thought the notion of a women’s specific book was patently ridiculous. In this case, my husband wanted to answer, “I guess you’ve never had to worry about having your period in a wetsuit!” (I’ve got a really cool, and incredibly proud husband).
However, Women Underwater and its accompanying website seeks to address much more than just women’s specific health issues. Truthfully, our industry is only just beginning to recognize that women need distinct solutions for equipment rather than something that is just small and pink. In careers, women still struggle to be considered capable of participating in traditionally male-dominated professions. On dive boats, women are still frequently treated with insensitivity, prejudice and even harassment. Clearly these are unique issues that women face in the underwater world.
Women Underwater aims to reach out to women to help find their place in the diving community. With detailed guidance on equipment, medical issues and social factors, we have also included inspiring stories and advice from mentors who have forged remarkable careers in underwater fields. Our hope is to provide a solid reference and inspiration for women to feel included and capable of pursuing their unique path in diving.