Nikon and the men unwilling to call out sexism

You may have seen one of the latest sexism debates hit the news. Same old excuses, same old men looking for justification before they express any outrage.

The story

Nikon released their new D850 camera and wanted 32 people from across Asia, Middle East and Africa to go on a road trip taking pictures with it. So they approached professional photographers to find the best talent available. The result?

All 32 were men.

Outrage ensued and in their defence Nikon said

“Unfortunately, the female photographers we had invited for this meet were unable to attend”

During the backlash many people pointed out their enormous error. Women are yet again ignored. Companies refuse to showcase women. Refuse to market to women. Refuse to include women in any meaningful way and their excuses are laughable.

Like those all-male panels excuses abound

  • “The women we asked couldn’t come” – How many did you ask? Did you make it easy for them to come?
  • “We couldn’t find any women who were qualified” – Are you setting your parameters so high women are unlikely to have been able to attain them in this male dominated field?
  • “We don’t know any women in this field” – How hard did you try to find any?

nikonasia3

The aftermath

As a woman, and the chair of a women’s amateur photography group I expressed my dissatisfaction on social media. Perhaps more annoying than Nikon’s rejection of women was men’s refusal to condemn.

They wanted proof that all reasonable excuses had been explored before they’d speak up against it.

“It’s an Asian company, they’re less progressive there”

“There are just fewer female professional photographers”

“But the women they asked couldn’t go”

Stop faffing about trying to deny there’s a problem and get on with calling a spade a spade.

I say to men

Understand that we weren’t angry because we don’t like men. We’re angry because it seems very much like Nikon hates women. We’re not looking to oust men from every job they have. We want equal promotion and job opportunities for women.

So if someone points out something sexist don’t seek ways to defend the act before being willing to condemn it. Whatever the intention, the outcome was sexist and offensive. It should be condemned by men as well as women.

Imagine if the tables were turned and 32 women had been chosen. Would you seek to defend their motivations before pointing out the outcome was wrong?

Don’t assume I’ll cover while you take care of your kids

It’s hard enough making sure you’re doing your best at work. Let alone keeping half an eye on the people around you to make sure you’re not pulling their weight too.

So I always shudder when I hear the phrase;

“Can you finish this up? I have to pick up the kids.”

Angry woman steam ears

Look, I have absolutely nothing against people having family commitments. It’s very difficult to juggle caring responsibilities with a working day.

What I do object to is the assumption that I can pick up the slack. Because my life is less important.

Have you been in this situation?

You owe it to yourself to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing in your own time. This might mean

  • Going to the gym
  • Seeing friends
  • Taking the time to cook a healthy dinner
  • Going on a date
  • … or any number of things that aren’t work

In fact it’s incredibly important for people without families to nurture caring and supportive relationships with their friends. We all need a supportive community and friendships are a vital part of that.

Of course, cover for others when they really need help. You’re not a total Scrooge. Just remember your personal time is precious whether or not you have children, or what age they are. Your life has its own worth regardless of someone else’s situation.

Just because there are no small children at home doesn’t mean you should consistently work longer hours or pick up someone else’s tasks.

Never assume someone else’s home life is less important than yours.

Working mums in particular hear a lot about the need to be strict with their work time. But don’t make that at the expense of someone else because their situation is different.

Try giving your colleagues some slack too. Letting them leave a little early for something they’ll enjoy will go a long way when you need to leave early to pick up a sick child.

Let’s create an environment of mutual respect for each others’ lives. No matter what shape they take.
UPDATE: How timely! The BBC just published an article on exactly this. How To Say No At Work When You Don’t Have Kids