How to succeed as a female in a male-dominated industry? Forget preconceived ideas. If it’s a man’s world, it’s also a woman’s land.

I’ve had several requests to write for International Women’s Week. Each time, I’ve been asked to share my experience from my professional sports photographer point of view. I’m not sure what kind of response is expected from me. To say that it’s terrifying? Or a feat? That my woman’s life has been miserable since I’ve started to play on the guys’ field? No. If fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Female photographer in a gym
Photo by Maxime Mortier, a man with whom I’ve shared knowledge in photography.

From equal to equal

This may surprise some readers. But no, I’ve never had problems at work. Not once. I consider myself equal to all the people I meet, men and women alike. There is no difference for me.

I really do enjoy working with guys. They are driven, energetic, logical, confident and are focused on the task ahead. I might add, at the risk of creating a shock wave (brace yourself): The majority of these men have absolutely no problem working with women. I know — hard to believe, right?

Female photographer strong man
Photo by Josée De La Chevrotière, a Strongwoman athlete who also thrives in a male environment.

The advantages of being a woman in a man’s world

I find this situation quite interesting for several reasons …

Photographer lying floor
Female’s technical approach can sometimes make men smile. Photo by Julien Carignan, my left arm at the World Masters Weightlifting Championships.

Attracts curiosity

It’s to be expected when you stand out from the crowd. Some people are skeptical about our skills or knowledge. Others are amused by our presence. No matter what kind of reaction it generates, it often leads to an opportunity to connect. It’s very easy for me to approach a 300lbs Strongman … because I know he doesn’t feel threatened (despite my best efforts at bicep curls).

Female photographine male athletes
Surrounded by Strongmen

A different approach

The way a woman discusses, the topics that are being covered, the intuitive side and compassion are elements that have served me well in my professional relationships. They help me to establish a good foundation and understand the needs of my clients and the moods of the athletes.

I believe that some people have become more open to me because of the way I listen and I am open to them. I’m convinced that the quality of these relationships is proportionally reflected in the quality of my work.

Female photographer sit floor
A woman — and her sweats — in a (strong) man’s world.

A new look

By the nature of our brains, a woman sees and thinks differently than a man. She perceives a scene and interprets it in a unique way, often with an emotional side. I believe it is this feminine creativity that allows me to create touching images.

Tall short photographers
Two men (Jacques Boissinot behind the camera, Daniel Mallard in front) making fun a small 5’4″ woman during her internship.

The exception to the rule?

I may have been lucky. Maybe I am THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE WHOLE WORLD who has no problem with working mainly with men. Maybe it’s because or my age, my race, my country, my field of work …

Or … maybe, MAYBE, I’m one of many other women who wants to share a different story. Who wants to show that, really, there’s no big deal to be made out of it.

Female photographer with child
With my favorite mini-man, my nephew Samuel.

Sports photography may be a man’s world but it is also a woman’s land. Being a female surrounded by males is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to stand out, grow and learn from each other.

Female and male photographers talking together desert
Enriching discussion with photographer Mike Hagen during a workshop. Photo by Richie Acevedo.

Opportunities for all

For the past few years, I have had mentors and I am one for others. I work with athletes, coaches, photographers, entrepreneurs, collaborators – all of them being mostly male. Everyone gives 100% in achieving their goals. Gender makes no difference.

I’ll tell you what does make the difference: It’s knowing that there is no difference.

Michele Grenier Photo
Photo by Mathieu Morissette, a man who has collaborated with me in various projects.

When you respect yourself and others, when you have goals, are professional, enthusiastic and passionate, people (of all genders) see it and respect you in return. Better yet, they often seek to help you.

Yes, sports photography is a man’s world. And I take great pleasure in evolving alongside them.