Diversity, Inclusion and Equity or Die
In the 21 years that I have been photographer and part of the AIPP, there have been massive changes in our industry. Technologically, with better gear being produced all the time and at lower prices. Socially, with many photographers ranking business skills and advocacy as less important than number your social media followers. Financially, the ability to earn an income can be very tough as it is highly competitive and the general market has been ‘dumbed’ down when often all that is required is an image for social media, viewed on peoples’ phones. Though there has been no changes in commercial photographers’ rights the power of ‘exposure’ to the less initiated, often rules.
In 2002/3 when I was the ACT President and a Co-Opted National Board member, the membership gender ratio was 70:30 men to women. The Institute was known as a ‘old boys club’ and many used to joke that you had to have glasses and a beard to belong.
Today it is vastly different. Photography has changed.
In 2009 I started a Facebook group called “Mums with Cameras, Value Your Creativity”, as I could see what was happening within the domestic sector, at that time. The biggest change was that these new photographers coming into the industry were predominantly women between the ages of 25 and 40 who took up photography after the birth of their children. The Facebook group grew quickly as it was a way to help and mentor this new growing part of our industry on how to run a business, how to be profitable and how to have longevity in the industry.
Many of the new photographers started their businesses with very little knowledge about business and pricing, though technology allowed them to take ‘good photos’, to set up cheap websites and grow their social media. That, combined with the growth of other photographic businesses selling photoshop actions, posing and styling workshops and also with several ‘movements’ propagating philosophies about portraiture resulted in a massive influx of women into the market. The popularity and growth of the birth, newborn and baby photography arena, in particular.
However, it does not stop at baby photography, but it has been a good entry point to the whole photographic industry and more women photograph all genres of photography. It was great to see that at the most recent AIPP APPA Gala Night, that there were more women finalists on the stage for the announcement of the Australian Professional Photographer of the Year, than men.
So, why do we need to know this?
As an organisation it is vital for the AIPP to embrace this change and growth in the industry, and it has, to a point.
There is still a lack of diversity, inclusion and equity in our organisation. As said previously, traditionally the leadership (and membership) within the AIPP has been predominantly men; middle-aged white men. There is nothing wrong with middle-aged white men but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the current membership. Our membership now comprises of approximately 65% women and 35% men. Our membership also comprises of different cultures, a vast array of ages, regional photographers as well as metropolitan based photographers. Our membership isn’t just about weddings and portraits, we include the commercial sector and now videography.
Since 2016 I have been thinking of ways the Institute can embrace diversity, inclusion and equity. We need a policy documented to future proof our organisation, to be better representative of our membership, and have systems in place when problems arise. The new National Board have considered the newly drafted Commitment To Diversity document prepared by the Diversity Committee and will be adding five of the suggested points in that document, to the Terms and Conditions of Membership of the AIPP. This is a great start, but we need to go further. Some ask why? Many people see lots of women photographers and do not see a problem. If you think that, then you are part of the problem.
Attracting diversity takes legwork. It is not about one-off initiatives. Equity concerns focus on changing the structures and systems that create the inequities in the first place. For equity to be established we need to consider including different people in our groups, we need to make certain that we set targets or at least be focussed on setting targets. For example; if we can be intentional when including the first five people into a group, and that they come from all different backgrounds and perspectives, then all of a sudden, that group is much more diverse than it would have been.
Education and mentoring is the key, on all levels, including the leadership teams. We need to build an inclusive environment where anyone regardless of their social identity have space to advance through opportunity and valued for more than just their membership. It is good to have leaders who’ve had experienced walking in someone else’s shoes, so they recognise and empathise and have the authority to make change. Change comes from good leadership.
The leaders of our Institute (and the individual membership) need to be held accountable for ensuring all groups, spaces and events are exhibit equity inclusion and diversity, hence there needs to be a system in place when issues arise and so that all individuals have an expectation that all their rights
To lessen discrimination and harassment within the organisation, systems need to change to become equitable in all areas of the Institute, including, but not limited to:
Membership and Accreditation.
Conferences/ Seminars and CPD Events (Speakers, Organisers, Patrons)
Mentoring Program (mentors/mentees)
Elected Councils, Committees, and regional chapters
Awards and Honours (APPA Team, Volunteers and Entrants)
The AIPP Assessors are at the front line of the Certification and Accreditation of applicants and members. This group of people need to have an equal amount of men and women, genre specialists, photographers from all geographical locations and cultures, to allow a growth in diversity and limit unconscious bias.
For councils and committees, conferences and workshops, the same applies. A buddy system may be a great way to introduce new members from different backgrounds to more established members, at events. This will help people feel included.
For State and National Awards Judging the gender balance needs to be equal so it does not detriment the entrant or discriminate any volunteer. For example; every volunteer has an equal right to a rest break to be able to do the awards process justice. We have yet to do this, with several female judges at the 2018 AIPP APPA left on panels due to the lack of female representation. This could be seen as discriminatory.
To achieve an equitable judging situation it would be beneficial to allow the Judges’ Workshops to be open to all the membership, and actively encourage all members, including students, emerging photographers and accredited members to attend. This could be seen as a great educational experience that enables an increasing visual literacy and ultimately it will benefit the members’ businesses to have a historical perspective to the art of photography, and in the long term reduce discrimination in the judging process.
Since 2003 the gender ratio of Honours recipients is approximately 5:1, male to female. To achieve equity in the Honours system there needs to be a downloadable nomination form accessible to any member who wishes to nominate a deserving photographer within the membership or the greater Australian photographic community. The Honours each year should be awarded to an equal number of men and women who deserve the merit. On a side note, the nomination of wives (life partners) of ex-Presidents, unless they are directly involved in the business of photography themselves, should not be considered in the future. At the time this could be seen as a nice gesture, though unnecessary, and shrieks of unconscious bias.
So, what is unconscious bias? We all have it. Some people are aware of it, most of us not. From birth we are brought up with a set of values and morals within our family, environment and culture. It is our hidden belief systems. It is precipitated by us making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations and is reflected in our prejudices and stereotypes. It is deeply seated within us. To establish an unbiased and inclusive non-discriminatory environment we need to learn about our own unconscious bias, be aware of it, and not let it hinder the Institute’s road to diversity, inclusivity and equity.
One simple way to reduce your own unconscious bias is to stop and think before you say or do something. Often whether or not you know you are biased matters less than accepting that you are. If you accept that you can be biased you are more than likely to act upon it. We need to realise that we are all fallible, but we all need to disrupt our beliefs and our expectations of what is accepted.
So, what can we learn and benefit from having an Institute that is diverse and inclusive?
We have new perspectives, more understanding, more empathy and less judgement. It involves patience, forgiveness, respect and it feels supportive.
Rushing out to make a funny comment on Facebook may seem like a good idea at the time, but will it benefit the membership? Just because a woman is assertive and ambitious does not make her an unlikeable person. Having decision makers from all over the country and different cultural backgrounds and ages makes for more empathetic leadership.
This involves small steps and will ultimately help in the retention of all membership and makes them happier. This will make us more current and be more profitable as an association. This will allow difficult discussions occur with respect and dignity.
There are great plans ahead with the new Constitution and By-Laws to be voted on soon. It can be heavy work reading legal documents but everyone should. Everyone has rights and we all need to know them. Read what is written. Discuss it. Vote on it. Be diverse. Be inclusive. Establish equity, or die.
Hilary Wardhaugh APP.Licentiate M.Photog IV