Women are strong, resilient, and powerful – much like the ocean itself. And, while the connection is clear, careers in diving have traditionally eluded some women.
Therefore, in 2015, PADI Women’s Dive Day began as a way to salute female divers. In the seven years since, it’s grown to become the most celebrated day of diving on the planet, with people of all genders, ages, races, backgrounds, and abilities coming together to explore and protect our ocean. This year is no different.
We Still Have Work to Do
Of course, there is still work to be done. For example, in the professional diving world, only 15% of PADI Course Directors are women. These individuals are trailblazing the seas, and we’re happy to follow in their bubbles. Course Director is the highest and most respected rating in scuba diving.
In honor of all women striving to make scuba diving a more equitable, safe, inclusive and enjoyable space, we’re celebrating three accomplished and audacious women – pioneering female PADI Course Directors in their respective countries. We honor them and women everywhere as part of our July 16 celebration of the power of women to bring waves of change.
1. Tamandor Asaad Bait Almal, Saudi Arabia
Tamandor Asaad Bait Almal is the first female PADI Course Director in Saudi Arabia. She’s also the CEO of Diving Secrets Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“Unfortunately, [scuba] is a male-dominated sport,” she said. “It was challenging to become the first female Course Director, and it took a lot of time and patience to get there. And, it was worth every minute.”
Diving since 2010, she loves the peace and quiet she feels beneath the surface. She specializes in dives along the coastline in Thuwal, especially with KAUST University.
As for advice to other women hoping to take their diving career to new depths, she said, “I would say it is time to start working on yourself and to never give up” and “The most important thing to share is passion”.
2. Virginia Esmeralda Urbieta Ubilla, Mexico
In Mexico, Virginia Esmeralda Urbieta Ubilla does it all. She’s a biologist with a focus on biochemistry and molecular biology. She actually taught for 25 years at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) before becoming a dive professional. She said, “But the dive changed me to simply become a diving instructor. In many years, I’ve had many experiences. I took many courses until I became a Course Director.”
She’s also a TEC Instructor Trainer (level trimix), EFR Instructor, Rebreather Instructor, and DAN Instructor (and former trainer instructor). “I actually have more than 30 Specialties as an Instructor and an Instructor trainer with PADI,” she said.
Diving since 1980, she recalls how male-dominated diving was when she began. One of her instructors told her she was one of less than 10 women in the world certified to dive trimix, and she didn’t believe it.
“We had to work more and demonstrate that we were as good as men, and, many times, better,” she said.
Therefore, “… being one of the first female Course Directors in Mexico (and maybe in Latinoamerica) is a pride. …,” she added.
She’s currently affiliated with Carlo Scuba Dive Center on Zihuatanejo, Gro.
3. Emma Andrews, Mauritius
In Mauritius, Emma Andrews is a big deal. She’s the first female PADI Course Director on the small island. She’s also one of the founders and owners of Crystal Divers Mauritius – the first and only PADI Career Development Center on Mauritius.
Andrews has been diving since 2005. During her PADI Open Water course, she fell in love with the sport because of the “exhilarating feeling of freedom” and the “thrill of exploration.” What keeps her going, though, are the people – “the most incredibly diverse, dynamic, passionate and friendliest bunch of people you will ever meet.”
“Every day, I work to recreate that feeling of belonging and camaraderie that I felt during my PADI Open Water Diver Course, amongst my staff, my students and across every aspect of our business and training,” she added.
As for being a pioneering female, she said, “I’m keen to embrace the scuba diving industry as it is and to respect everyone in it, but it’s definitely my goal to bring more balance to the industry, both in Mauritius and worldwide.”
As for her accomplishment, she feels “incredibly proud and honored” and hopes to leverage her achievement to encourage other women to become PADI Pros. In particular, she’s designed an indigenous female scholarship initiative to give back to the local community, honor her Mauritian heritage and enable more female Mauritians to become dive professionals.
She tells her three young daughters and her students, “Refuse to fit the stereotype. Break the mold. And, dispel the notion that ‘Girls can’t do what the guys do.’ Then, you will be more able to make a significant, positive impact.”
More on Women and Diving
- PADI Women’s Dive Day: Celebrate the Connection Between Humanity and the Ocean
- Why More Women Should Become Divers
- The Inspiring Women Advocating for More Inclusivity in Diving
- Women in Technical Diving
- Seven Women Divers Around the World Cultivating Hope
- PADI Women Saving the Ocean
- 7 Women in Diving Everyone Should Know