Last year, Kat Schleicher was photographing a family farm while working on a personal project. It was there that she found inspiration for her newest project concerning women in the workforce.
There I met a woman who gave me a tour and told me how she would work alongside her family to plant and harvest the crops in the spring and fall. But, in the summer, she worked as a construction worker. I found that fascinating and felt that in some ways I could relate to her as a woman working in a profession traditionally dominated by men.
Kat knew then that she wanted to draw attention to the trailblazing women who worked every day in male-dominated occupations. Before she began shooting, Kat used the United States Department of Labor’s website to research jobs where women represent 25% or less of the overall workforce. She used this resource as a springboard to identify and connect with women working in male-dominated careers. Growing up on a farm, she was well-versed in agricultural work, but it took years for Kat to finally meet a woman who worked a managerial position in the farming industry. This woman turned out to be Kat’s very first subject and just happened to be her mother-in-law.
One of Kat’s primary concerns in creating this series was how to adequately represent women in the workforce. Because of her close relationship with her mother-in-law who worked as grain elevator manager, Kat was able to explore the lighting and composition techniques she would employ later down the road as well as think through any potential pitfalls.
However, lighting is not the only obstacle she anticipates running into as she continues her work on the project.
The biggest challenge for me at the moment is finding the time. I am a full-time freelancer and a mother of two pre-schoolers. It has been very important to me to work on my projects, but I don’t always have the time. I try to set aside time each month to find subjects and set up shoots. I have decided to do everything on my own—without any assistants or crew. This has worked to my advantage (I can pick up and go whenever I want) but has also been a challenge in some of the environments that I could have used some help working in! I have had to remind myself that the subject is always the most important part of the project, and pare it back to honest execution of that goal.
But for Kat, this is a project that hits close to home. Her experience meeting and speaking with these strong women who are paving the way for others is a constant source of inspiration.
As a female photographer, working in commercial, advertising, and editorial fields, I have experienced moments when I look around and find that I am one of the only women in the room. I am proud that I can do a good job regardless. But it has been great meeting these women one-on-one in these locations and professions that used to be or still are, dominated by men. I feel like they’re making a small dent in the universe every time they walk into their workplaces, and hopefully documenting them there will help bring that reality to a larger audience and change the perception of what “women’s work” really is.
Kat hopes other young women will feel inspired to pursue their dreams and not feel limited or intimidated by the lack of female presence in any given industry, and in the meantime, she’ll continue to document the powerful women in the workforce.
See more of Kat Schleicher at katschleicher.com