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Bye, Bye, Bad Stock Photography: Getty’s Lean In Collection to Show Empowered Women at Work


Forget women laughing alone with salad. The real stock photo crime against female empowerment is evident every time an editor searches for the phrase “working woman” and comes up with a homogeneous gallery of heteronormative women — mostly white, middle class, and dressed for a day at Melanie Griffith’s firm in Working Girl. But all that might be about to change, thanks to a collaboration between and Getty Images.

Sheryl Sandberg 

(Photo Credit: cellanr/Flickr)

Called The LeanIn Collection and jointly curated by Sheryl Sandberg’s organization and the photo agency, the collection hopes to offer a more realistic and inclusive representation of working women. A portion of its proceeds will go to supporting a grant program for capturing images devoted to female empowerment.

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“The new library of photos shows professional women as surgeons, painters, bakers, soldiers and hunters,” writes Claire Cain Miller at The New York Times “There are girls riding skateboards, women lifting weights and fathers changing babies’ diapers. Women in offices wear contemporary clothes and hairstyles and hold tablets or smartphones — a far cry from the typical stock photos of women in 1980s power suits with a briefcase.”

For those not working in the media, or who are represented by a less diverse stock photography offering, the project might seem less revolutionary. But media and culture are inextricable from one another: if all we see in stock photography accompanying articles about women at work, for example, are young, white workers, we’ll unconsciously begin to think of young, white workers when we’re going about our business in the real world.

At some point, our business might include hiring people, many of them women, who hopefully won’t all be WASPs who had access to the internet in high school. It will be nice to have images that represent that reality.

Want to help change culture? WNYC is inviting readers to submit their own photos that represent modern working womanhood. Tag yours on Twitter or Instagram with #NotYourStockWoman.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think representations of working women affect the lives of real working women? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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