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Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In Teams with Getty to Make Stock Photos Less Sexist

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Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In organization is taking aim at institutional sexism in an unlikely medium: stock photos.

Born out of the memoir of the same name by Facebook's chief operating officer, the non-profit has partnered with Getty Images to create a stock-photo library of 2,500 pictures that portray women in a positive light. Those will be available to Getty customers like corporations seeking an image for their website, creative directors at ad agencies and photo editors at media outlets.

Getty stock photo from the Lean In collection
Getty Images
Getty stock photo from the Lean In collection

Lean In will get an undisclosed portion of the fees from the licensing of those images.

The notion behind the partnership is that a sizable share of results that come up in routine stock-photo queries for terms like "businesswoman" and "career woman" are "completely sexualized or just really cheesy," said Jessica Bennett, Lean In's contributing editor who works on editorial partnerships for the organization.

She pointed to photos of women in boxing gloves and women gleefully ascending ladders in their high heels, a trend that New York Magazine recently documented.

"There's so much terrible stock imagery out there, so we wanted to put something out that felt really authentic and empowering," she said.

Getty stock photo from the Lean In collection
Getty Images
Getty stock photo from the Lean In collection

About 25% of the photos are newly sourced, while the balance is a curated selection from Getty's vast existing library, according to Pam Grossman, Getty's director of visual trends. More new content will be added on a monthly basis.

"This collection is a fantastic start, but we want to see even more images of women leading business meetings," Ms. Grossman said.

To urge harried art directors and photo editors to use this set of photos, the Lean In library will be displayed on Getty's home page. Images within it will also surface more prominently than they had previously in Getty searches for terms like "businesswoman."

Lean In photos depict school and family scenarios as well as women at work. For workplace settings, there was an emphasis on choosing pictures where women exhibited powerful body language rather than being hunched over or looking passive. Ms. Bennett described weak body language as another theme in stock photography portraying female executives.

For family settings, Lean In and Getty focused on showcasing some women who don't have youthfully flawless faces.

"You'll see some women who are not in their twenties and thirties," Ms. Bennett said.

The collaboration with Getty isn't Lean In's first editorial partnership. Ms. Sandberg has guest edited the quarterly "Cosmo Careers" section of Cosmopolitan magazine. And the organization partnered with Time on a "Letters from Dad" Father's Day project, where famous fathers like Aaron Sorkin, Marco Rubio and Richie Sambora published open letters to their daughters.

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