Education

IWD's Glenda Slingsby on How Your Photography Can Make a Difference this International Women's Day

By Ellen Clipson - 5 min read

We spoke to International Women's Day (IWD) Director, Glenda Slingsby, about the ever-increasing importance of visual representation of real women through photography. Images are essential, and in this interview Glenda tells us why.

As Director of Strategic Partnerships for IWD, Glenda Slingsby has learned first hand the power of visual content. When it comes to the narratives surrounding representation of women and the global push for gender equality, your photography can be the powerful catalyst for real change. Here, Glenda tells us how to make a bigger impact with our photos.

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The 2019 campaign, #BalanceforBetter, what does that mean to you and the IWD team?

The #BalanceforBetter campaign theme is based on the belief that a balanced world is a better world.

We’re at an exciting time in history. Due to more recent interest in women’s equality from movements like #MeToo, the world is starting to notice when balance is absent and celebrate it when it’s present.

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“Images are everything. They stimulate thought, exude a thousand messages, and are catalyst for progress.”

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Where do images fit into what IWD is doing?

Images are everything. They stimulate thought. They exude a thousand messages. They’re a catalyst for progress. What we see builds our world. What we see makes us who we are. What we see…is.

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IWD is all about reflecting the vibrant and varied communities in which we live and work worldwide. How do you make sure that IWD reflects as many stories around the world as possible whilst remaining authentic and approachable for such a wide audience?

Our campaign themes are always broad enough to be relevant across all countries, yet specific and directed enough to also be very powerful and meaningful.

Our partnership with EyeEm has been centered around assisting us to forge visual diversity, and has been a key part in our drive to move the dial when it comes to challenging perceptions.

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Imagery is vital for authenticity and inclusivity. We do not judge or favor certain groups over others, instead we see, understand, and value all the factions of feminism - and we honor, celebrate and support them as best we can.

“The richness and fullness of women’s representation is getting really interesting.”

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Out of the IWD X EyeEm Image Collection, do you have a favourite photo? If so what is it about it that stands out to you?

There are so many outstanding photographs in the Collection that it’s almost impossible to select a favorite. Kate Phellini’s work is incredible. Infact, we featured this image (above) as our hero image promoting the IWD Photo Competition.

Two images that I see as very powerful and evoke questions are are these. They both have an impact that I love.

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With the IWD Photo Competition in mind, what is it about creative collaboration that you think is important? What do you like about it?

The exciting possibilities that come out of creative collaborations always lead somewhere. The journey getting to that place can be enormously fun, challenging and stimulating.

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Do you think we are seeing changes in the visual representation of women?

There are certainly positive developments in the visual diversity of women across most photography communities, asset libraries and the media.

Some of the biggest changes in the way women are visually represented is the use of candid context. It tells a story, sets a tone, shows real women in real settings. The richness and fullness of women’s representation is getting really interesting.

Retailers and employers are realizing that if their portrayal of women is not diverse and inclusive they can alienate significant populations and become to be seen as less progressive.

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“We need to see an increase in women running the photography industry”

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What are the changes you still long to see?

I long to see is more women rising up the ranks of photography - not only as photographers, but in the industry as a whole. We need to see an increase in women running the photography industry. Why? because balance is better.

There’s is also still some way to go in ensuring all women are adequately included in contemporary images. It’s one step to see more women captured through photography, but it’s another big leap to ensure more diverse groups of women are also visually represented.

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“people’s appetite for positive change and for the world to reflect the diversity, power and passion of women.”

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What does EyeEm’s #NotYourCliche Campaign mean to you? And how does this relate to IWD?

#NotYourCliche, to me, means flipping the script. It reinforces the notion that there’s a real earthiness to life. Imperfection, difference, the unusual and the unexpected can all be very intriguing and engaging elements.

Likewise, IWD is largely about celebrating difference. This global day is so powerful because of it’s common bond across people everywhere – people’s appetite for positive change and for the world to reflect the diversity, power and passion of women.

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IWD has played a huge part of the bringing gender balance within a number of different industries and spheres. What is the thing you get most excited about and motivated by when it comes to this progress?

I get super excited when I see three things.

Firstly, when I see the passion and engagement of groups and individuals - of all genders - in some of the deepest, darkest parts of the world get all fired up about IWD and our campaign themes. It gives me a sense of hope.

Secondly, when I see school and university students - again, of all genders - learning about bias and challenging stereotypes, this reminds me that change is inevitable.

And thirdly, when I see men flying the flag for women and I see all sorts of organizations saying they will not tolerate a lack of diversity or gender stereotypes. Seeing this, puts a smile on my face.

“Creative Arts are so important in every aspect of life and different societies, and it’s an arena where women are thriving.”

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During your time at University of the Arts London (UAL), what were some of the most important things you learnt, and how have you managed to utilize those skills to empower women around the world?

Art comes in many forms, thoughts are fluid and complex, and perspectives can be challenged, extended or manipulated. The Creative Arts are so important in every aspect of life and different societies, and it’s an arena where women are thriving.

By giving women platforms for visibility and opportunities to be celebrated, as well as facilitating useful connections - provides a means for women to excel.

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When you have worked within creative spheres, or collaborated with brands within the creative industries, what has been your biggest taking? What do you love most about these collaborations?

I absolutely adore working alongside creative minds. One of the best things about working with consumer-facing brands is that they tend to be truly open to innovation and new possibilities.

Creative ideas and thoughts are highly valued, and then the power of diverse teams of impressive people can make the most exciting things come to life.

Even just the word “collaboration” gets me all excited and intrigued about the possibilities. IWD’s Partnerships Director, I get to search out brilliant opportunities, respond to presented possibilities, and refine seeds of ideas where I see potential.

Looking back to your childhood - how did images influence you? And do you think they changed the way in which you approached the professional positions in which you have held?

Right from a young age, I always ‘noticed’ images. They made me curious, think, and feel.

As a young child, I drew all the time - and I’m not just talking butterflies and flowers. I drew odd things in unconventional ways and when my mother asked about my choice of subject matter, I would tell her it’s okay to draw differently because it’s not what people expect. I guess this has stuck with me through life as I’ve not always tred a common path.

“It takes some pretty significant action to disrupt the default and to challenge the status quo.”

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You have many years of experience working with women working in international business spheres. What has been the biggest thing you’ve learnt when working so closely with the men and women involved in these communities?

I’ve been fortunate to have learnt an enormous amount about complex gender-related issues working with so many corporations, governments, universities, schools, women’s networks and individuals working in business.

At the end of the day, most people really do want positive change and equality in their environments.

It takes some pretty significant action to disrupt the default and to challenge the status quo. It’s painful, unpopular, and controversial. However, over time, tenacity prevails - so we should never ever give up fighting the good fight.

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Want to join us in empowering real women through photography this International Women’s Day? Take part in the first official IWD photography competition now to share how you are celebrating the women in your world!