Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization, a nonprofit dedicated to providing advice and support for women, is partnering with Getty Images to help diversify and update their stock photo collection of professional businesswomen. The partnership’s aim is powerfully simple: address outdated or sexualizing images of women in the workplace with new images of feminine strength.
On the eve of International Women’s Day, with Getty and Lean In sparking a new conversation (and GoldieBlox’s Super Bowl ad putting STEM education for women front and center once more), we wanted to take a look at some very real ways to begin breaking through that glass ceiling.
What real women look like
Getty Images’ Lean In Collection is an important step in changing how women are portrayed in everyday marketing materials. Unlike the vast majority of existing stock photos of women hunched over or looking passive, women in the Lean In Collection exhibit powerful body language and are shown leading business meetings.
The collection also includes women at home and in family settings (and not all of them are young or the model type). The point is, we still rely on stock photos as stand-in icons of our daily experiences—that’s why it’s important to dhow authentic images. Although stock photos may not be overtly degrading or sexualized, they can influence our idea of gender roles.
Lean In and Getty know that the only way to change the image of the workplace is to fundamentally shift how women are portrayed—and that would never change if stock photos only showed women in sanitized, subservient positions, quietly reinforcing the glass ceiling.
Toys for girls: STEM and education
This isn’t just a cause for professional women, it’s for parents and educators as well. This year GoldieBlox, a company that manufactures construction toys for girls, won a 30-second commercial spot during the Super Bowl. The company beat out more than 15,000 competitors in a contest run by Intuit. It was finally decided in a public vote that GoldieBlox would be the first small business to air an ad during the game.
The “About” section on the GoldieBlox website contains a pie chart that shows only 13 percent of engineers worldwide are female. That’s what inspired Debbie Sterling to create GoldieBlox. When she saw how few women enrolled in her engineering program at Stanford, she invented a toy to give girls the opportunity to develop an interest in construction and building. Thus, GoldieBlox became one of the most talked-about Super Bowl advertisers by helping expose this disparity—and offering a positive solution for young girls.
Real role models
Some girls prefer storytime to building, just as some women become writers and others accountants. On LeanIn.org there’s a library of stories from female CEOs to flight attendants to men dedicated to creating a more equitable workplace (and society). These women and men have a message: whatever your daughter chooses to do, the way she looks is less important than the things she does.
Initiatives such as GoldieBlox expose girls to the same opportunities as boys while the Lean In Collection gives them realistic role models. There isn’t just one flavor of professional businesswoman—for those who rock the power suit, by all means, and for others who prefer jeans or circle skirts, that’s fine too. Next week is International Women’s Day. How are you changing the image of women in your workplace? How are you shattering the glass ceiling?