Changing The Way We Look At Women

Published: 17/02/2014

When I worked on the new website last year and needed to find photos I – like everyone else – looked on Stockphoto and Getty to find images, and it was dire and discouraging. Women are mostly “models” and none of the poses look natural; it looks as staged as is. Even more difficult to find women in engineering roles and working in the field or women in the role of boss. You get women wearing helmets but they are in sexy shoes wearing heels, rather than be photographed while at work, in natural poses.  In the end you have to make a choice even if it isn’t exactly what you want.

We are all tired of looking at models that don’t correspond to “real women” in all their splendour and variety. Enough of stereotype depictions of women. We want to see women looking positive, successful and powerful.

Hurray to a new initiative by Sheryl Sandberg/ & Getty Images which proposes to change the way we look at and portray women. The “Lean In Collection” is composed of a photo gallery with 2,500 pictures of women of all ages, more diversity of backgrounds, and more men depicted in non-traditional roles.

143911346_11IMAGE: Peter Cade/Iconia/Getty Images

“The stock imagery around women is embarrassing,” Jessica Bennett, contributing editor at, said in a press release. “You can’t be what you can’t see, so if women and girls are not seeing images of powerful women and girls who are leaders, then they may not aspire to become that.”

Stock photos of women are not only important to how women are perceived in society, but they’re also widely used. 

“Woman” is the most commonly searched term on Getty, and “business” is second on the list, said Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty. “Family” is also in the top 10 searches, she added.

The project began when Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images, commissioned a study that would track the changes in the representation of girls and women in the media. The study turned into a presentation that Grossman later shared with Sheryl Sandberg and the Lean In team at Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., last fall.

The editors were especially attuned to a viewer’s perception of the women in the photos. “The most important thing for us is that you felt like the woman had agency, not like the image was happening to her, but she was the protagonist of her own story — they all should feel like the hero of their image,” Grossman said. The new Lean In Collection pays particularly close attention to things like women’s posture and diversity.

In addition, “we paid careful attention to make sure the images were diverse, not just in terms of race, but also in age, family situation, and career,” said Bennett. Notably, the collection also features men actively participating in what may be seen as nontraditional male roles.

Grossman said she hopes to continue adding images to the project each month. “My hope is that internally our photographers will see these stories and it will inspire them to create even more [positive images of women],” she said.