Female diver marks International Women’s Day

To mark International Women’s Day, Diving Officer Lieutenant Commander Catherine Ker, an instructor at the Defence Diving School based at Horsea Island in Portsmouth, looks at the equal opportunities she has enjoyed in the Royal Navy.

Responsible for providing diver training to the Royal Navy’s mine clearance divers, Catherine was the first female to become a mine clearance diving officer in 2010 after the policy changed to allow women to dive.

Eight years on Catherine has deployed to the Gulf, been the Executive Officer on a Sandown class Mine Counter Measures Vessel (MCMV) and has taught a new generation of Royal Navy divers at HMS Collingwood.

Life now has a new set of challenges. With two children, and a third due in May, Catherine balances a Navy diving career with the demands of family life.

Catherine said: "The Royal Navy is very supportive of working parents and I’ve benefitted from a number of family friendly policies.  I have a shore job, which allows me to be the prime carer for the children, and I work flexi-hours so I can do the school run.

"It is possible to have a military career and be a working mother, and we generally deal with the same day-to-day challenges faced by women in every walk of life."

I have changed opinions in the diving world, people now see that it is ‘ability’ and not ‘gender’ that gets the job done.

Lieutenant Commander Catherine Ker

The Royal Navy’s family friendly policies range from generous maternity and paternity packages, a gradual return to work programme after maternity leave, wide support networks for parents and families and flexible working routines that offer career breaks, part-timeopportunities, home working and extended leave – all designed to support modern family life.

Catherine said: ‘The policies are there to support us.

"Military lifestyle will always be a consideration, especially if both parents are military, but changing perceptions about what women and mothers can – or can’t do - is something we can all do.

"I have changed opinions in the diving world, people now see that it is ‘ability’ and not ‘gender’ that gets the job done."

"There are amazing opportunities for women in the Navy. Being the first, ‘trailblazer’ and changing perceptions has had its challenges, but I know I have opened the door for the new generation of female divers.

"I’m pleased that a few female sailors have passed selection for diver training and we will see them diving in the Fleet over the next few years."