The Way Women are Portrayed in Stock Photos is About to Change

stock images women The Way Women are Portrayed in Stock Photos is About to Change

A newer stock photo after we typed in “women.”
Photo: Getty

Even if you don’t know it, you’re exposed to stock art almost every day—various photos from services that offer imagery for writers to illustrate a story, marketers to illustrate a brochure, or brands to advertise a product. While they’re often helpful because no publication shoots everything themselves (we used one earlier this week of a pile of colorful candy hearts to illustrate a story about 40 Valentine’s Day ideas), the ones that feature actual people in them are typically super-cliché—especially the photos of women.

So many stock images showcase women in two specific scenarios: At “work”—some ambiguous high-powered business job, where all females are slightly dated, carry a briefcase, wear a gray suits and glasses, and pore over spreadsheets—or at home, where she either cares for kids, happily cooks, or clutches a mug of tea while gazing out the window.

Well, it looks like things are about to change, thanks to Facebook exec and women’s advocate Sheryl Sandberg. According to the New York Times, Sandberg’s buzzy nonprofit organization, LeanIn.org is partnering with Getty Images—one of the biggest providers of stock photography—to offer a series of photos that showcase women and families in more empowering ways.

“When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Ms. Sandberg said in an interview, via the Times.

women at home

A stereotypical stock photo that’s supposed to portray “women at home.”
Photo: Getty

The new photos shows professional women in varied professions—surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters. There are girls riding skateboards, women lifting weights and fathers doing domestic activities, like changing babies’ diapers (without looking horrified). Women in offices wear modern clothes and hairstyles and hold tablets or smartphones, as opposed to the aforementioned “work” suits and briefcases.

And, as the Times pointed out, there’s clearly a need for it, as Getty’s three most-searched terms are “women,” “business” and “family.”

At StyleCaster, we often laugh at the results we get while typing in certain terms when looking for stock imagery, so we think this will be a welcome change not just because women’s roles will be more varied, but because they’ll also appear more modern.

For example, we’d never run a obvious-looking piece of stock art of a woman who looks like she walked out of a 1980s office park when writing about work—not exactly on-brand for us—and most sites like ours probably feel the same. In fact, our staffers have commented several times that stock agencies need more contemporary photos of women if they want to keep clients (FYI: stock imagery costs money.)

As Getty users, we’re really looking forward to using the new images, and you’ll probably see them here soon!

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