When the seed for the Alpha Female movement came to life, I was sitting in a conference room at Sony HQ in San Diego, staring at a photo of an influencer group of 32 hand-picked photographers, all male, and wondering how it would be statistically possible that not one woman would make it onto that list. And the answer was it wouldn’t be statistically possible, if the selection criteria were unbiased—that’s how math works in nature. But it was possible, in this case, because the photography and filmmaking industries had been systematically undermining women creators, to the point where fewer than 20% of professional photographers and filmmakers were women.
After getting past the bewilderment, the next thought that came to mind was “we’re better than this.” We, as in all of us, in this industry, not just we at Sony. But every revolution starts with one step, so “we at Sony” could model the change “we as an industry” were seeking.
And that’s how Alpha Female was born.
Then came the hard part: what specifically could we do to create change?
Looking internally, women are already well represented in our ranks, with most of our marketing activities being led by women, and three of our most important components—the Alpha Universe platform, Sony Artisans of Imagery, and the Alpha Imaging Collective—all being led by women. We had also started creating change years before by ensuring that women and minorities had a growing voice in our Ambassador programs, with the hope of one day soon reaching true equality.
The Alpha Female Creator-in-Residence program will include all these things: The 5 women who will be selected will benefit from Sony’s network, mentorship from trail-blazing women photographers, and a meaningful amount of money to take their careers to the next level.
Throwing some money at the problem and claiming we did something would have been the easy way out, but that’s not the Sony way. We wanted to show up for diversity in our industry in a more thoughtful, committed way. And so started a months-long exploration of the diversity issues we’re facing in our industry.
What we learned was that often, women photographers aren’t getting the jobs because the gate keepers aren’t allowing them to get through the door. Getting through the door implies many things, all of which are critical for success: meeting the right people in the right positions who own the right opportunities, getting recommended for jobs by people whose voices matter, and having the financial resources to take on meaningful work that would have an impact one one’s growth.
And at Sony we have the power to open all these doors.
First, we know people. People who make decisions and who are as committed to having a well-rounded photo and film industry as we are. People who are eager for the opportunity to change the world for the better.
Secondly, we have in our midst women photographers who have broken through the walls and created extraordinary careers, and who are willing to provide mentorship to the next wave of women creators.
Thirdly, we can put money toward creating more opportunities for women creators to advance their careers and building a blueprint for success that other women creators can follow, and other brands can emulate.
The Alpha Female Creator-in-Residence program, our flagship initiative, will include all these things. The five women who will be selected to participate in the program will benefit from Sony’s network, mentorship from trail-blazing women photographers, and a meaningful amount of money to take their careers to the next level. Each round of the program will last for six months, and we strive for three things to happen: the enlisted women creators will be able to take the next step in their career, the rest of the women creators we reach will also become inspired to grow their own careers, and the rest of us will learn more about what’s needed to solve our industry’s diversity problem.
The meaning of the word Alpha is widely understood in the English language as being the first, the baddest, the strongest, and typically associated with men. We’re changing that now. We’re reclaiming the use of the word Alpha, not because it happens to be our brand, but because we believe anyone, regardless of gender, skin color, socio-economic status, and some myriad other things outside their control, can be Alpha. Anyone who is committed to being their very best, to leading the charge toward making the world a better place, to showing up and being present and lending their voices to a worthy cause, is Alpha. You can choose to be Alpha.
We’ll keep you updated as things progress, and I’m making a commitment to share both the good and the ugly, because if we all become smarter together, success will be in sight.
For more about the Alpha Female program and to see how you can apply, go to alphauniverse.com/alphafemale. Also, check out our Alpha Universe podcast interview with Michaela Ion at alphauniverse.com/podcast.