I first guided on the Chattooga, one of the toughest places to learn. Yes, I had to prove myself twice over, but since the company had several strong extremely confident female raft guides, once I proved myself, its was all good. You know, I am not sure if I really even had to prove myself more or if I just felt that way because it was so tough. Many guys never even made it through the guide training, and I made it and then was hired on the Chattooga--the only person hired that year chosen over about 10 guys! So, I think some of the sexism is there and some of it is just people's perception. Things get tough, maybe you have never had to do anything so tough in your life and you want to blame other people...
I say this because once I became a strong confident female guide, I never had problems from anyone--customers or other guides. And if anyone ever started any shit, I gave shit back and showed em what was up and that I was on my game. Remember, guys give each other shit too--when they do that, they are treating us like a guy and it means they actually respect us. And they may even say shit about you being a girl--they are just trying to push your buttons--they would say something else to another guy trying to push his buttons too.
The best thing to do is take the criticism and keep growing and learning and hang in there. There are many many many awesome female raft guides out there. If you know inside yourself that you are good to go, then you are and it doesn't matter what anyone says or thinks.
Which brings me to the CONFIDENCE. It is so true what everyone is saying. I see this as a core to this problem as well. Whitewater raft guiding is a sport where you gotta get behind that stick and yell at people and take control. Alot of women come into guiding never having had to do anything so controlling before. They don't command the raft, get flustered with the commands, the customers get scared, you get stuck, you feel stupid, you start crying...can you tell I have been there? Then the guys start branding you as a weak female. My first year, this was happening and I said to myself either I have to get it together or quit doing this. So I decided I would just act like I was the best raft guide in the world and I was gonna take contol of those custies and that raft. The next day I went out there and I did it. I have never looked back. I deepend my voice and started yelling and taking people's paddles away when they didn't do what I said (I humiliated many a man by making him sit there in the raft the rest of the day with no paddle) I steered that raft with intention--sometimes not on line(they don't know unless you tell em with your body language or your voice getting squeaky), but I gave it my all. I learned to stay behind that stick and steer that raft right into whatever was happening--right into the flip--I don't care--never give up! And I learned to command that raft over time. Now I have enough confidence when I walk up to my raft crew and they can tell, that I don't care who they are, they feel safe in my hands, even if I flip--because I tell em its coming. I actually love getting a egotistical bunch of men now--I take control of that raft and they love it and tip big. It was 10 years ago this weekend when I began raft guiding--hang in there--it takes time. Fake it tell you make it. You won't be faking it for long!
I wouldn't trade my experience training as a guide and guiding for anything. It has helped me be a better boater and a better person.
Good luck to all you female guides out there! And if you need any support or advice, send me an email!