The International Women’s Day 2021 campaign theme is #ChooseToChallenge. The IWD campaign focuses on gender bias and inequality; the great point of this years’ campaign is that together WE can help create an inclusive world. Celebrating women’s cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements while increasing visibility is key. The skydiving community has amazing women that challenge themselves and make our sport nicer every day. 

In a sport mainly dominated by men, it’s imperative to share women’s achievements in our skydiving community.

Jumping out of an airplane is already enough of a challenge for most people. However, this is just the first step when we talk about women’s achievements in our skydiving community. The women who I look up to since I started skydiving are amazing. They organize skydiving world records, work as load organizers on big skydiving events, and travel worldwide doing what they love the most. Besides all that, they also do crazy skydiving demos. Do you remember Kate Hansen landing in the middle of the Carnival in Brazil? (sickkkkk).

“Individuals and organizations are invited to send in their #ChooseToChallenge images as we share images from around the world in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2021.” IWD Team

On top of it, the USPA has a female mentorship program that connects novice female skydivers with more experienced women skydivers called Sisters in Skydiving (SIS). This group of skydivers has a significant online presence that helps many women around the world. As well, they organize many SIS events during the year to meet each other. 

Women & Skydiving

The USPA says that women skydivers only make up around 13 percent of USPA’s membership. This information may shock few people, but any active skydiver realizes that there are not nearly as many women as men at the drop zones.

Nevertheless, that percentage doesn’t mean much when we think about women’s achievements in skydiving. Even though sexism and discrimination were prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s in our skydiving community, women remained and persisted. Muriel Simbro was the first woman to earn a skydiving D License (D-78) and win a gold medal in the world meet. Barbara Roquemore in 1968 won the women’s overall championship at the U.S. Nationals.

More women were starting in the sport through the years. They became more active in competitions, skydiving records, demo jumps and instructor positions. A great woman we can mention is Cheryl Stearns. She started competing in 1976 and is currently a 33-time national champion. Also, we have Sandy Williams who formed the all-female Misty Blues skydiving demo team in 1984 (the year I was born, dammit).

“The joy of breaking a record and doing good for the world is an amazing feeling.” Kate Cooper-Jensen

The first world record of an all-female formation skydive was in 1974, on a 16-way jump. It grew to a 48-way in 1984 and a 100-way in 1992, and in 2009a 181-way. “The Female 181-way World Record wasn’t only a world record, says Kate Cooper-Jensen. The event also raised funds for breast cancer research.”

Women’s Skydiving Network – WSN

“While being underrepresented creates some challenges for female skydivers, it also provides a unique opportunity: the drive to be equally represented.” The drive to make that happen ignited a passion in skydivers Christy Frikken and JaNette Lefkowitz, who co-founded the WSN Team in 2016. 

The best way to equalize our sport is to have more women being part of the industry’s crucial roles. Promoting women’s exceptional actions as leaders and community members will support the sport. It will increase the chance of having doors opens to help women and our sport to grow.

“I have always felt strongly about women’s equality and about what history can teach us. Also, I have always felt strongly about women or any people that were once devalued as a group taking their place in the future as leaders alongside traditional leaders. I love how the goals of Project 19 parallel those concepts.” Sara Curtis

The Women’s Skydiving Network will fully sponsor attempts to build a 100-way FAI Women’s World Record for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive. That is the first time in skydiving history that a world record is fully sponsored! Which is pretty amazing.

women world record attempts in Eloy, Arizona.

Sisters in Skydiving – SIS

“Many people believe that our sport lacks support to retain women skydivers. SIS is a female mentorship program that pairs students or novice female jumpers. The program aims to put them together with experienced women skydivers. The goal is to offer moral support, encouragement, and guidance as they learn to skydive. We have many women in the skydiving sport. We just need to keep working together.” USPA SIS

“After USPA had announced a new program called Sisters in Skydiving (SIS), my first inclination was “heck yes!” For several years, I became increasingly aware of the male-dominated sport I had become a part of. Being the only female on a load was not uncommon for me. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I found myself wondering why.” Valerie Armstrong.

Sister in Skydiving event
Photo by Niklas Daniel

Project 19 – Women’s Vertical World Record

In 2019 I started the hear more about Project 19. I was present on one of their training weekends at Skydive Empuriabrava in Spain. It was very nice to see so many women together. If you ask me what I remember the most about that day, I would say FOCUS. They all wanted to make history.

“Project 19’s mission is to encourage women worldwide to dream big and live a brave life.” WSN Team

Project 19 is a privately funded effort to have women skydivers to help celebrate the centennial of the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It granted women the right to vote. Project 19 aims to build a 102-way female head-down formation. That female skydiver’s formation will be the new Women Vertical World Record. When accomplished, they will be part of the Guinness World Record book.

Project 19 Vertical Women World Record Training camp
Photo by Roy Wimmer

Keep coming back

To support Women’s Skydiving Network, please follow their public Facebook page. If you want to be part of the group, request to join their private group

If you want more information about Sisters in Skydiving, please visit the USPA website and their Facebook group

I hope you liked this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please send me an email or a message on Instagram if you have any feedback on it. I want to know what you have to say!

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