Moving Away from Stock Stereotypes

LeanIn.org and Getty Images have teamed up to offer a stock photography library of women and girls that shows them in more realistic, contemporary settings rather than as multitasking yoga dolls.A measure of how we see ourselves can be found in the images we use to depict ourselves. LeanIn.org and Getty Images have teamed up to change how we view woman in stock photography.

Instead of women with forced smiles and contorted postures, new stock photos show women in more realistic, contemporary settings  — multitasking, flipping through a catalogue and lifting weights. The idea is to break through visual stereotypes.

Sheryl Sandberg, author of "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," told the New York Times, "When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into stereotypes that we're trying to overcome, and you can't be what you can't see."

Getty's part of the partnership is led by Pam Grossman, the stock photography company's director of research. Part of her job is to track demographics and visual trends. She has helped create a new library consisting of 2,500 stock photos of women and girls, a quarter of which are new to Getty's collection. While Getty has added images in lockstep with societal transitions, this is the first time it assembled a collection in collaboration with a non-profit.

Advertising agencies, PR firms and web designers go to stock photography libraries to search for the perfect image. Now Getty will offer a wider, more diverse range of images showing women and girls in less clichéd settings. The library includes women in roles such as surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters.

"Imagery has become the communication medium of this generation," says Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, "and that really means how people are portrayed visually is going to have more influence on how people are seen and perceived than anything else."

The new Getty/LeanIn collection comes at a time when the role of women will be a topic of conversation as Hilary Clinton moves front and center as the leading contender for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Time magazine ran a cover piece showing a woman in a business pant suit with high heels with a tiny man clinging to the tip of the heel under the title, "Can Anyone Stop Hilary?" Atlantic carried a story about working mothers depicting a woman with a briefcase with a baby crawling out. There is an online parody of how stock photography portrays women.

Sandberg, who also is an executive at Facebook, says the new collection reflects a decision by LeanIn.org over, "Do we partner into sexism or do we partner against sexism."

The pictures will tell the story.