Sony released its list of Sony Advocates, and the list was a little surprising. Two out of the twenty were female, one out of fifteen at the time of going to press! A year ago Nikon was taken to task because put together a list of photographers that included no females. Sony’s marketing department must have a short memory because this situation was always going to cause problems for them. That works out at 10%, hardly a real representation of their clientele.
Sony was quick to defend their selection saying it was merit-based and there weren’t enough female applicants. It was an obvious and easy excuse, but not a valid one. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that the male advocates were somehow gifted their roles, or that they don’t deserve to be there, I’m saying Sony made a mistake with the application process if they didn’t get enough female responses.
What Sony fail to realise, is that when you put out applications and only 10% of the responses are female, surely you have to take a look at your marketing for the role and ask yourself why it’s not working instead of just accepting the results. Is Sony honestly trying to tell us that 10% of the camera market is female? I doubt it.
Screenshot from Sony website
So where did Sony go wrong?
Firstly, not having enough applicants says that Sony didn’t do their job marketing the role properly. If you can’t attract female photographers that gives me a clear indication that you don’t understand the female photography market. You don’t understand where they go on social media, you don’t understand what they are looking for and you don’t understand why. To make matters worse, you don’t understand how they choose their gear. If you don’t understand the above, any influence you have on what they buy is luck or out of your control, in fact, you’d be just as well firing an arrow at a social media target blindfolded. The problem is Sony assumed they’d be exactly the same locations that the men are, and they aren’t.
The female photographers don’t hang around in the photography groups talking about gear like most of the men do. They don’t hang out in many groups because there are some male members posting b-grade nude photos and others who respond with sexist comments like “nice ass” which make them feel uncomfortable.
They don’t come to the usual photo walks because they are tired of being harassed by that one idiot who thinks having a woman come along to a photo in all means she is there to be hit on by the men.
They also don’t come to the usual photo walks because they’re tired of treated like novices by that one idiot who thinks that a woman doesn’t know how to use her camera and wants to “mansplain” how to use a camera to her.
They do however tend to prefer female only events where they don’t have to worry about the above and until we can weed out this behaviour completely, it’s an acceptable response to behaviour they have experienced in the past.
I’m not an expert on female photographers, I’m not going to try to pretend I know what they want, and I shouldn’t have to. Sony shouldn’t be asking me what to do, I’m just pointing out the obvious. Sony needs more female photographers in their team to do that, they need female photographers to tell what they need to be doing right to get the attention of other female photographers, they need female photographers to help them develop more female photography talent. Doing it with 10% of the advocates isn’t going to do that, and it’s a terrible look.
Doing it the same way they’ve been doing it isn’t going to help, programs like the Alpha Female program is a good start, but the actions on the advocates program seem like a step backward. They need to find them, not put out applications and hope they respond, whether that means actively searching for them or not. They need to create role models that young female photographers can look up to. They need to change their marketing processes to adapt to a different market segment, not expect the market to adapt to them.
So my advice to Sony is to be better. Be better than Nikon. Be Better than Canon. Not just with technology, but with the way to market to females. And be respectful. It would be nice to see the brands competing to see how can do a better job of lifting their game with females for a change.
As a father of a 5 and 7-year-old daughter, and a husband of a working mum, I see first-hand every day the extraordinary things that they do and am passionate about the fact that they should have equal opportunities to their male counterparts.