Another day, another social media debate about the lack of diversity in the photography industry. Last night Nikon Asia announced their 32 brand ambassadors for their latest flagship professional camera and the line up was a little ‘cock heavy’ so to say. As a woman and as a feminist in the photography industry I’m growing a little tired of this. It’s 2017, not 1972. I feel like I am surrounded by enormously talented photographers who also happen to be women, yet there is still a majority male conference speaker and brand ambassador bias.
Earlier this year Fuji hosted a gear demonstration seminar and provided the audience with a topless model to photograph using the new camera. Fuji were somewhat slow to respond to the social media backlash and eventually made a statement distancing themselves from the photographer leading the workshop and apportioned blame to the individual and not the brand.
These are just two examples of many that I could list out, but to be frank I haven’t got the time because I’m too busy being a woman in the photography industry. Women are systematically excluded from the top table of the photography industry and this has to stop. It is no longer acceptable to justify not including women in the speaker line-up of your conference or workshop because the photography industry is made up of men. It is not. Facebook marketing whiz and creatively brilliant photographer / videographer Hannah Millard found that just a quick and dirty review of Facebook suggest that approximately 24,000 people in the UK have their job title set as either photographer or photographer/owner. On examining the gender split of those 24,000 people, roughly 13,000 are men and 11,000 are women (45%).
Estimating the number of women in the photography industry
If a Facebook data mine is a little too ambiguous and not robust enough for your liking then I contacted several industry bodies to ask if they could provide an estimate of the number of women in the photography industry based on their membership split. Only The Royal Photographic Society could share information and said that 25.1% of UK members were female (with more than half of their staff being female). The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers, and the Bureau of Freelance Photographers said that they don’t collect the data. The British Institute of Professional Photographers and The Association of Photographers were asked to comment but did not respond.
However, I am not a member of any professional body, and I am not sure that I know of many of my female peers who are either. This suggests that as a data source alone, the validity is limited.
The UK government published a report in June 2016 that focused on employment in the creative industries, and covered the photography industry in the research. Unfortunately the photography industry data is very broad in coverage as it was combined with film, TV, video and radio. However the report indicates that women make up 39.9% of that industry group, slightly higher than the creative economy average of 37.2% but still lower than the national average of 47.1%.
Does this matter?
So it turns out that there are women in the photography industry. And the proportion is sizeable. It is now estimated that approximately 80% of all photography graduates from UK universities are female. Women are a growing customer base in this industry and it would be detrimental not to represent us at a leadership level. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s a well researched fact that gender diverse organisations will out perform their competitors by 15%. That performance escalates to 35% when the organisation is also racially diverse. Now is the time to start showing consumers that diversity is valued. This means that as an industry we have to start giving a platform to women and people from diverse backgrounds.
Even if you aren’t interested in the commercial success of the photography industry and we only evaluate the artistic integrity of photography, then to continue only representing white men will mean that we only get to see art from white men. Art is the accumulation of experience from the individual creator and do we really want to see just one perspective on the world repeated ad nauseam?
What can we do?
Several large workshop and conference organisers have specifically said they struggle to find women to include in their panel of talent because women don’t put themselves forward to speak, or aren’t willing to through lack of confidence. I know from my previous career in marketing that brand ambassadors and conference speakers aren’t born, they are made. To be considered a leader in any industry requires confidence and a specific skill set that doesn’t come naturally overnight. I’m particularly excited by a recent initiative from Laura Babb at Snap Photography Festival. I have been to the festival every year since it’s inception in 2016 and one of the reasons why I have now attended three times is because of the commitment to diversity and inclusion. Every year Laura finds interesting, creative and inspiring people from all backgrounds to share their expertise. Her aim is to invite speakers that reflect the make up of the community, this means that she actively seeks out speakers from groups that are currently under-represented and encourages their participation.
Laura has boldly taken the criticism and created a scholarship program to specifically nurture a female, or non gender confirming, photographer to develop these skills and start putting themselves forward.
If you are interested in supporting the Snap Photography Festival Aspiring Workshop Leader Scholarship, you can donate here. Just a few pounds will help make an impact in what is an industry that is desperate for change.
Kick-Ass Female Photographers That I Admire
Want to pin the details of this blog post? Pin this poster to your Pinterest board
And don’t forgot to follow me to see wedding inspiration, planning tips, photos and more… click here to follow me on Pinterest