Women are finally getting their due in STEM stock photos

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While some people are bizarrely debating the place of women in science, technology, engineering and math careers, Getty Images is busy replacing outdated stereotypes with stock images of women in STEM as it really is: driven, talented, curious and skilled.

To mark Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration to honor the achievements of women in STEM, Getty shared with Mashable contemporary and archival photos that show how much progress has been made in creating more accurate representations of women in these fields.

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The company’s internal statistics tell part of this story. Search terms related to professional women continue to increase year after year. Between 2016 and 2017, searches for “woman CEO” increased by 47% and those for “woman business meeting” by 192%.


Credit: Getty Images


Credit: Getty Images

Search terms specific to STEM careers have also increased over the same period. Searches for “tech businesswoman” skyrocketed 1,300%, while “woman programmer”, “woman astronaut” and “woman in tech” all increased by more than 100%.

“People are looking for images to support what’s happening in the world,” says Claudia Marks, senior art director at Getty Images.

The company has actively helped create new images to reflect this reality through its Lean In collection, which is a partnership with the nonprofit women’s empowerment organization LeanIn.org. The images below are part of this collection. Four images of girls and women engaged in STEM activities are among the 15 most downloaded images from this library this year.

“People are looking for images to support what is happening in the world.”

Getty has major advertising agencies and media companies (including Mashable) among its customers, so customer searches may be driven by both current events and cultural trends.

A movie like hidden numbers may generate more interest in various representations of women engineers and mathematicians. News of a female astronaut breaking the U.S. record for cumulative time spent in space may spark more research—you guessed it—for female astronauts.

The evidence for these changes is also clear when comparing archival images of women to women in photographs today. Most of the stock footage below was taken in the 1950s and tends to portray women as demure or absent from the workplace. There are notable exceptions, including a woman using an IBM mainframe computer in 1961 and two women working on an airplane during World War II.

USA - circa 1950s: Young girl having tea.  (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

USA – circa 1950s: Young girl having tea. (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)
Credit: Getty Images

Girl glasses assembling electronic circuit in science center

Girl glasses assembling electronic circuit in science center
Credit: Getty Images/Hero Images

Indeed, Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century mathematician, is credited with writing the instructions for the first computer program, but her legacy and achievements have been overshadowed by those of men.

Marks says that even though women held important jobs in STEM decades ago, depictions of that work often showed them as auxiliaries to men’s roles or overseen by men. These images also did not depict people from diverse backgrounds.


Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Credit: Getty Images

Now, she says, customers are looking for a very different theme.

“They’re looking for women, people who look authentic… They’re looking for all races, all shapes, all ages,” she says. They want to see women “on their own, independent and responsible”.

A woman in front of a design model of the operator's console of the new IBM 7044 mainframe computer, in 1961.

A woman in front of a design model of the operator’s console of the new IBM 7044 mainframe computer, in 1961.
Credit: Photo Archive/Getty Images

Getty

Getty
Credit: Getty Images

So, instead of showing women smiling as they answer the phone or bake a cake, they feature women looking at the camera with confidence while sitting in an office chair or wearing a lab coat. Girls who may have played with a tea set are now assembling electronics.

Marks says Getty educates its contributors on how to portray different scenarios, emphasizing an “intersectional portrayal of women” so that diversity is a key part of photos aimed at the masses.


Credit: Getty Images


Credit: Getty Images

“By encouraging the creation of these images and encouraging our customers to use these images, we are helping to influence the way the world sees women in business, in STEM, in tech,” says Marks. “[A]and women can reinforce the way they see themselves.”

Women working on assembling WWII aircraft.

Women working on assembling WWII aircraft.
Credit: Retrofile/Getty Images

Female engineer working at 3D printer.

Female engineer working at 3D printer.
Credit: Getty Images/Hero Images

It may be long overdue, but at least that moment has finally arrived.

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