Ladies Day Theresa

Ladies Day – Theresa Simpson

At Emperor Divers we are incredibly proud of the amazing women we have working with us.

So proud in fact, we want to share their stories and tell you more about them. In a series of weekly ‘Ladies Day’ features, we will highlight a few of the fantastic women who make us the great organisation we are.

And where else to start than at the very beginning with the trailblazing lady who set up Emperor and put us on the path to being a ground-breaking dive company in the Red Sea – Theresa Simpson.


Theresa and her husband Terry were founders – along with Andy Telford and Jim Yanny – of Emperor Divers way back in the early 1990s. After several years of running training programmes around the world, the lure of the Red Sea pulled them in and the rest, as they say, is history.

Under the pioneering guidance of Theresa, we became renowned for the quality of our IDCs (Instructor Development Courses) and led the way in transforming the courses on offer in Egypt.

Theresa explains: “We had been living and working in the USA when, in the summer of 1992, we decided to return to the UK to see our parents.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to book a trip to dive the Red Sea. We had heard so much about the beauty of the corals, the fish life and diversity that we wanted to dive them and discover it for ourselves.

“It was to be a holiday of a lifetime – but it was while at the dive centre in Sharm el Sheikh the idea of teaching an IDC arose. It was an opportunity not to be missed.

Terry & Theresa

“Both Terry and I could see the business potential of conducting IDCs in Egypt.

“The country was full of dive guides (some of them not certified!) and instructors from every European agency along with a few PADI Divemasters. However, no instructors yet!”

Theresa became the first woman course director in the country and, indeed, the only director who was actually resident in Egypt.

“I did not at the time have an inkling of what a political minefield I was about to embark on! I was naïve.

“I had come from Florida where PADI IDC centres were a ‘dime a dozen’ and everyone competed with each other in a professional manner but with the ideology to be the best. We had operated two 5-star IDC centres in Palm Beach and worked hard to nurture our own homegrown IDC candidates in a very competitive market.

“Therefore, that spirit of competitiveness and seeing a lucrative market drew me to accept the challenge in Sharm el Sheikh.

“At this point it had nothing to do with being a female in a man’s world. The challenge was to build up credibility as I was there to stay and build a business. In fact, it really wasn’t something I dwelled on because it was the excitement of setting up a new business.

“But this was in a world where women generally didn’t work outside the home – to the point where men even did the domestic duties in hotels and restaurants etc – and the male was dominant.

“I certainly was a different kind of female working in a man’s world! As a PADI Course Director I was one of only 10% worldwide who were female so, in a lot of ways, I had become conditioned to being ‘unusual’ and therefore, the transition to being the one and only female CD in Egypt did not faze me.

“The bigger issue was the Egyptian Diving Federation were left in a quandary as they didn’t know how to equate my qualifications with that of the CMAS federation which they were members. I was the most highly-qualified instructor in the scuba diving industry in Egypt – so where did they place me? What was my rating?

“I received the CMAS 3-star rating and, as far as I was concerned, if that got me my work permit then that is all that mattered. Then one of Egyptian officials, who was really stuck with how to categorize me, suggested that I was an honorary man!

“At that the authorities stopped wondering about me and I got on with establishing myself and the business in Egypt.”

Theresa went on to have many successful years leading us to become a world-renowned, multi-award-winning diving company, and laid a path for the wonderful women of Emperor to follow – more of whom we will introduce you to in the weeks to come.

Follow our series of Ladies Day posts all the way through to PADI Women’s Dive Day 2024 on July 20 when we will have something special for our female divers

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