Sheryl Sandberg creates stock photos that change the way the world sees women.

Women: pretty much constantly laughing alone with salad, right?

It is a truth universally acknowledge that the way women are represented in the media is generally pretty crap.

Female politicians get given ridiculous magazine covers. Female actresses are, more often than not, offered ridiculous rom-com roles with no substance. Women’s magazines are illustrated with ridiculous stock images of women laughing while eating salad. Because we all do that, right?

Well, the times they are a changing. Sheryl Sandberg – she of Lean In fame – has announced a partnership with Getty Images, which is intended to change the way women are portrayed in stock images.

Stock images are those which are used by thousands of media organisations, advertisers and businesses to illustrate their published material. Exhibit A: the woman to the left. She is eating a salad! She is a Pretty Healthy White Girl. You get the idea….

The “Lean In Collection” of stock photos will be different. It has been created to show women as they really are. Women of different body types, different professions, different interests. Young women, old women, and women from different ethnic backgrounds. Women who are living their lives and aren’t just smiling coyly for the camera with that illustrative salad.

For example: Instead of a stock photo showing a photoshopped woman weighing herself at the gym, there are photos of women lifting weights and looking powerful. (There are also – and this is really awesome – photos of men changing nappies that don’t paint the father as a buffoon. Because maybe shared childrearing duties shouldn’t be presented as an insane concept.)

To illustrate the point a bit further — here’s Mamamia’s gallery ‘what women are like according to stock photos’:

And here’s what the Lean In Collection will look like:

Jessica Bennett, a contributing editor at, summed up the need for photos like this perfectly, when se said, “The stock imagery around women is embarrassing… You can’t be what you can’t see, so if women and girls are not seeing images of powerful women and girls who are leaders, then they may not aspire to become that.”

Jonathan Klein, co-founder and chief executive of Getty, agreed that images can be incredibly powerful. Klein told the NY Times, “Imagery has become the communication medium of this generation, and that really means how people are portrayed visually is going to have more influence on how people are seen and perceived than anything else.”

Women need to be able to see real, authentic representations of themselves in the media. Real representations of how women look. What women do. And what women feel. We think this is a pretty good start.

Have you seen stock photos used before that made you cringe? Do you think these images will make a difference?

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