SAN FRANCISCO – There’s the businesswoman, dressed in a suit and glasses and holding a briefcase. There’s the mother who smiles as she pours milk into her children’s bowls of cereal at the breakfast table. There’s multitasking, holding a laptop in one hand and a baby in the other.
These stock images are familiar to anyone who has seen an advertisement or flipped through a magazine or brochure depicting working women and families. And their pervasiveness harms girls and women by fueling outdated stereotypes, says Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who has become an advocate for women stepping into leadership roles.
In an attempt to remedy the problem, Ms Sandberg’s non-profit organization LeanIn.org is due to announce on Monday a partnership with Getty Images, one of the world’s largest providers of stock photography, to offer a special collection of images that she says portray women and families in a more empowering way.
“When we see images of women, girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we try to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Ms Sandberg said in an interview. .
The new photo library shows professional women as surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters. There are girls skateboarding, women lifting weights and fathers changing babies’ diapers. The women in the offices wear contemporary clothes and hairstyles and hold tablets or smartphones – a far cry from the typical photos of women in 1980s power suits with a briefcase.
The partnership comes amid a renewed national conversation about women and work, spurred in part by the success of Ms. Sandberg’s book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” and the possible presidential campaign of ‘Hillary Rodham Clinton. Its message has the potential to reach a wide swath of society, thanks to Getty’s 2.4 million customers who tap into its library of 150 million images.
There’s an appetite for images: the three most searched terms in Getty’s image database are “women”, “corporate” and “family”.
“One of the quickest ways to get people to think differently about something is to change the visuals around it,” said Cindy Gallop, who started Bartle’s U.S. subsidiary Bogle Hegarty, the agency advertising. “The problem with these images is that they work on an unconscious level to reinforce who people think people should be.”
The partnership is a way for Lean In to broaden its reach after criticism that Ms. Sandberg’s advice is only for women in corporate America and that she places the burden of breaking stereotypes on individual women rather than companies. workplaces and society.
The folks at Getty and Lean In, led by Pam Grossman, Getty’s research director who is responsible for tracking demographics and visual trends, chose 2,500 images, a quarter of which are new to the photo agency. They plan to continue adding photos to the library.
When Getty subscribers — creative agencies, media companies and other businesses — search for relevant terms, they’ll see these images alongside the usual images, or they can search specifically for Getty’s Lean In collection.
The initiative is particularly important right now, said Jonathan Klein, co-founder and chief executive of Getty, because of the rise of image-based communication that has resulted from smartphone cameras and websites and apps. like Pinterest and Instagram.
“Imagery has become this generation’s medium of communication, and that really means that how people are represented visually will have more influence on how people are seen and perceived than anything else,” said Mr Klein.
Getty has already added new types of photos to its collection to reflect changes in society – adding, for example, more photos of older people doing physical activities. This is the first time that Getty has co-created a collection with a non-profit organization and shared its licensing revenue. Ten percent of photo revenue will go to LeanIn.org.
The question of how the media visually portrays female leaders has cropped up periodically, in recent years and in 2014.
Last month, for example, a Time magazine cover story about Mrs. Clinton showed a huge high heel stepping on a tiny man. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s much-discussed 2012 Atlantic cover article on working mothers featured a woman carrying a briefcase with a baby crawling out.
The stereotypical women in stock photos have also become an Internet meme, inspiring parodies like “Feminism, According to Stock Photography” (women in suits climbing ladders and wearing red boxing gloves) and “Laughing Women alone with salad” (exactly what it looks like).
Getty’s Lean In collection has the potential to create its own memes (women using tablets near windows at night, for example). Yet it shows a more diverse set of people, including those of different ages, races, and body types.
“At Facebook, I think about the role marketing plays in all of this, because marketing both reflects our stereotypes and reinforces stereotypes,” Ms. Sandberg said. “Are we partners in sexism or are we partners against sexism?