Why women in business face gendered ageism

“The (last) photographer had me sitting down most of the time. They were very static photos. Laurie had me up and down, with some sitting. I felt more alive. They captured me more and my energy,” Norman said. “With the last person I didn’t feel as though it was as much about me as it was about her. It was about her getting great work and a great portfolio versus me getting the photos I wanted.”

Bishop insists it’s that time spent getting to know her clients and attention to detail that allows a person’s personality to come through in the final product. If a client isn’t relaxed, that will show up on the camera, Bishop said.

“(Bishop) was able to show a level of seriousness and professionalism, but also bringing out that other side that I want to convey which is warmth, hope, solutions, approachable,” said Leslie Alden, executive director and co-founder of Drawdown Bay Area, a Corte Madera-based nonprofit focused on climate change. “We are a very visual species and conveying something visually and accurately is both important and sometimes difficult.”

The process starts with an initial call to determine if Bishop is the right fit for the potential client. Then a longer conversation is scheduled to delve deeper into who the client is, her business, what she is looking for, potential recent changes in her personal and professional lives—anything that will help Bishop connect with the woman so the photograph reveals her personality and not merely an uninspiring headshot.

Then it’s time for Bishop to create a story board to drill down into the client’s individual style. This helps her research potential backdrops, poses, colors and other needs for the shoot that will ultimately capture what the client wants to portray.

Having a background in design has helped Bishop with composition and knowing what color and texture of clothing will photograph best with various backgrounds, and how it all plays out with the client’s stature and personality. She holds clothes up against different backgrounds to give the client an idea of what the color scheme and scenery look like together. Then the shooting begins. When she has the photos processed, there is a reveal session.

Buying into Bishop’s expertise is also critical. Norman was initially skeptical of Bishop’s idea to wear a black top with black background. It ended up being one of her favorites.

“I find if someone just wants a head shot, that is not very interesting to me. I am the slow food of photography,” Bishop said. “I think of the photo shoot as an experience. Then it becomes fun and a memory. That is my ultimate goal.”

She travels all over the Bay Area, the state, and will get on a plane for some clients.

“Laurie has a skill set and intuitive ability to read what the client wants or needs and figures out the various impediments. She put an enormous amount of prep time in, which surprised me,” Alden said.

Customers come away with a package of photos that reveal themselves as they want to be seen.

“Traditional business photos are fine if you are in more of a traditional business role,” Klugman-Rabb said. “As a psychotherapist, people need to trust me, to know that I am approachable. They want to be able to establish a relationship with me that could be a few weeks or a few years so they need to see me less as a staunch business person, but to see me as a human. That comes through because I am taking photos where I am most comfortable.”

It’s listening to people that seems to make the difference. One client told Bishop that she “needed to look relevant and not look like someone’s mom.” Another had put on weight during the pandemic and didn’t feel photogenic. Bishop’s solution was to essentially put on a lighthearted fashion shoot. This helped loosen up the client.

What the workplace looks like

No matter what a woman looks like in person or in a photograph, gender and age discrimination are still a reality in the workplace.

“There are structural, material forms of gender inequity baked into our economic system. Money isn’t everything, but it’s a very real form of inequity that heavily impacts people’s lives; so let’s start there. We need to look at structural pay gaps and fix them; then let’s talk about how those inequities were created in part because of stereotypes,” Dominican University’s Pitchford told the Business Journal.

In the executive suite, it’s still mostly men, so there is that sexism issue again. In 2021, 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women, though the percentage was 6.6 in 2019.

“Women continue to face a broken rung at the first step up to manager: for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. As a result, men outnumber women significantly at the manager level, which means that there are far fewer women to promote to higher levels,” according to McKinsey & Company, which last fall released a report titled “Women in the Workplace 2021.”

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