Feminist Stock Photos

Stock photos—which come from image databases and are often used in advertisements or magazine articles—can be painfully outdated and limited. You’ll find lots of photos of women cleaning their houses and laughing alone with salad. If you search for “women” and “business,” you might find a photo of a woman climbing a ladder with a briefcase and shoulder pads. The photos often feel like caricatures.

Sheryl Sandberg‘s organization, Lean In, wanted to change that, so she’s working with Getty Images to add thousands of new photos to their image database—including photos of women running meetings, girls at computers and men with their kids. She wants to represent women and families in more empowering ways and stop perpetuating gender stereotypes, according to the New York Times.

How fantastic is that? I love the photos above, and here are four more…

That last one rings true to me:)

P.S. Reminds me of the fantastic tumblr, This is what a scientist looks like. And my own series on work/life balance, if you’re interested.

(Photos from Getty Images, via The New York Times)

  1. Ashley says...

    I love this post!

    It used to by part of my job to pick the stock photos for corporate branding and I always struggled to find appropriate content. It was my mission to find images of diverse people (age, gender, ability, and mood) in natural settings. You would be shocked to know how hard it was to find images of women who were not laughing in a board room but rather commanding respect at the head of a table.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      So interesting and we definitely have some of the same challenges when photo-editing Cup of Jo!

  2. Cecilia says...

    My favorite is the older business woman addressing the group. It’s so nice to see a woman over their early 30s without plastic surgery, long flowing hair extensions, fake eyelashes…I could go on and on but you all get it. Aging is a real thing and I’m so sick of being made to feel I’m not allowed to age naturally and still be a contributing member of society. Thank you for these!

  3. These are fantastic!! We absolutely need more images of powerful, confident women in the media. Thanks for sharing this great initiative!

  4. Progress:-) i love it.

    -Hanne Margrete

  5. These are not feminist stock photos, these are real life stock photos.

  6. Love this! I work at a digital marketing agent that hides stock photos all the time- I’m so happy to see imagery that I (and many other women and stay at home dads) can relate to!

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  8. Feel very lucky to live near Sheryl Sandberg and having had the chance to hear her speak at a private book reading. She is one amazing women. I love what Lean In is doing to change our stereotypes. These stock images are just one of the many ways men and women, young and old perseverate these messages to boys and girls. We are fortunate to have her in our community and school.

  9. So Awesome! I totally cracked up about “laughing alone with salad!” Hehe :)

  10. I checked out some of the other stock photos from the links. Ugh. This is apparently desperately needed! Love the photos!

  11. Thank goodness, I have to use a lot of stock images in my work and get soooo tired of looking for images that aren’t so dated. (and convincing clients not to use them.)

  12. Love this and also love this is what a scientist looks like. I remember once seeing a series where kids drew what they thought a scientist looked like and it was most often a male in a lab coat and glasses. Hopefully this picture is diversifying.

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  14. I fancy myself as the tattooed mama sitting at the laptop. So exciting to see women I want to be (like).

  15. That last image is my favourite of these- it’s exactly how I hope my life will be in 10 years time!

  16. I’m in love with the photo of the same sex couple. It really warms my heart that some people are trying to change the image women have in the world.

  17. This is so freakin’ awesome!!

  18. My husband is an exec. at Getty Images. Getty is getting an AMAZING response to these images! So glad that my hubby works for such a great, progressive company. The fact that women doing things other than ‘laughing with their salad’ is considered progressive is sad in itself, but change is happening!

  19. These are fantastic. And I love that this collection is making the rounds in articles lately… very hopeful! You always know how to nail down awesome stuff, Joanna (including, but not limited to, women laughing while eating salad alone).

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  21. My favorite part of this new set of stock images is that I looked at all of them and then thought . . . “this just looks like normal, real life.” Because isn’t that the point?

  22. Love this! I’m all for women empowerment. Reblogged!

  23. This post almost made me cry. What a great project to take on!

  24. Interesting! The images convey a lot of feeling. Thank you for this post.

  25. I absolutely support this! Good work Lean In.

  26. These are great! Funny enough, I work for a custom t-shirt design company and our website has a huge database of clipart that people can use to design their t-shirts. I was recently assigned to a project to create a lot of clipart portraying female professionals so that they could outweigh the numbers of outdated housewifey and sexy woman clipart that was there before!

  27. I LOVE the scientist blog on tumblr. I am marrying a physicist and he could not be more awesome :)

  28. So wonderful! I love the one with the man braiding the little girl’s hair. Go Sheryl!


  29. So, so awesomely refreshing. Thank you, world. Thank you.

  30. I just saw this! As an artist who purchases a CRAZY amount of stock footage for projects, this is very refreshing.

  31. This is off topic, but what happened to your blog list favorites? Thanks!

  32. these pictures are so great– i just wish there were more where the women were not looking at computer screens.

  33. It’s a great idea that feminist photographs are getting an update, but why do most of them feature the woman or family huddling around a computer or a tablet? In Virginia Woolf’s time the breakthrough in feminism was getting your own apartment, and in the 70’s wave it was equality in work opportunities and wages. Those ideas are outdated now, as you mentioned.

    The computer and the Internet is a powerful, liberating tool (hence I’m using it to type this comment two continents away) but I find it disturbing how families – children and parents – seem to be looking in one direction rather than engaging with each other. Replace the images with a TV and these pictures won’t be so groundbreaking.

    I like how these pictures celebrate having kids and a family though, rather than the old stereotype of ‘career over family’. But more books and nature, please!

  34. That’s great! I’m a female surgeon and it’s an uphill battle. That photo of the female doctor made me think of that. Every time I walk into a patient’s room, it’s “Oh the nurse is here!” all over again.

  35. I love this so much! Many people probably continuing using photos that don’t fairly represent women out of default of nothing else being available. Lean In is putting a stop to that! Amazing :)

  36. Laughing alone with a salad. I actually just did that. HA! ;)

    Love this photos so much. A friend posted them on Facebook a few weeks ago and from the way I was raised, it exemplifies the women I’ve grown up around. Strong, professional, and motherly just the same.

    Next step, television commercials that don’t continue to depict families from the 1950’s.

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  38. this is great! i have mixed feelings about “lean in” and the position of privilege i think it assumes women have to do so (telling poor minority women they need to lean in is somewhat insulting, and why are we placing the blame on ourselves to rise to the top of the pyramid, why can’t we try to change the flawed patriarchal corporate structure instead? but that’s another story…) ANYWAY, anytime we can get more diverse images out there is a good thing. thank you for sharing!

  39. Wonderful!
    Thanks for posting this!
    I’ve purchased many a stock photo over the years (decades!) and not only is this WAY overdue, it’s going to make a ton of money.

  40. “Laughing Alone With Salad”.
    Ooh, that did make me giggle.
    Perfect book title, too.

  41. I LOVE these! I am getting married soon and will be the main breadwinner in our household. It’s heartbreaking to hear the negativity my fiance and I receive from family and strangers alike when they learn this. It’s nice to see people pushing for the acceptance of breaking these societal traditions!

  42. The salad thing is killing me! She’s clearly a loony…but a healthy one. As a scientist, former tomboy and mom of a spit fire 5 year old girl, I think any improvement in the female imagery we dish out is a good thing. We should be starting young too, being cognizant about the subtle effects of the pink army and the narrow expectations that society foists on girls. Thanks for posting this, Joanna!

  43. super cool! I use getty all the time for creative work, and there are a TON of those ladder and pant suit images.

  44. Ive personally encountered the issue of looking for stock photos of women for Advertising projects, especially in the business setting, and its been a huge issue! They were all so outdated and did a terrible job portraying the modern woman. Thanks for the exposure on this issue!

  45. Its amazing and I agree that changing what people are used to see is an important step into changing how they feel about them.

    Lean In is a great great movement, I love that you posted this – I was going to email it to you. :)

    Thanks Joanna!

  46. Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t seen these yet and they’re lovely. The last one speaks to me also, Joanna. My husband and I don’t have children yet, but with both of us working full time and me trying blog in the evenings, our nights often consist of me staring at the screen and him doing things around our apartment.

    And laurasaurus, I totally agree! That picture definitely looks like art to me. I love seeing Dads taking an active role in their daughters lives… even in stock photos. :)

    xx- Lynn-Holly from The Attic

  47. Great Shots! woman rulles the world!


  48. Great to have women represented in a more powerful role, but lets take it to the next level and have images of men as caregivers and childcare providers and partners in domestic chores.

  49. Great to see this kind of image of today’s woman. Very telling of the age we live in that 8 out of the 10 photos you picked for this post have a screen of some type in them!

  50. Ah, I saw these and then forgot about them. Thanks for the reminder, they are SO good. As a work at home mom, I’m beyond excited to see a more diverse portrayal of woman.

  51. I love this… I would also love to see teaching (by men and women!) represented as a ‘powerful’ profession ;)

  52. The 4th photo down is my fav – mom and son are ADORABLE!

  53. Yup. Saw this article a few weeks ago and loved it. I shared it on my FB for my friends to see. LOVE IT ALL :)

  54. I see stock photos that are “feminist” all the time… I even used some for my old job. I am actually quite surprised that you say stock photos are limited and horribly outdated. Not saying you’re wrong… just find it interesting. Sounds like this organization has found their niche! Good for them.

  55. Love this! Stock photos are the sort of subtle, unintentionally offensive things that help shape the way we see our world. I actually L’dOL at the women eating salad. I didn’t expect there to be so many! Also, I wonder why so many of these new stock photos are of women staring at computers. I especially love the one of the man braiding the girl’s hair. Feels more like art to me than advertising :)

  56. The last picture speaks to me as well. My husband and I both work full-time and he’s usually the one that cooks dinner at night for the family. We live in a world now where the majority of men and women both work full-time so household chores should be divided.

  57. Love this! And love to see feminism being represented in this space, thank you!!

  58. So happy to see this collection from the Lean In organization. I work for a firm that does research for c-level executives on how they can better run their business. I’m in the IT research practice doing editorial work–writing blog posts, working on our quarterly magazine, that kind of thing. While reviewing image selections for the last issue, I noted that every single stock photos was of a group of old white men sitting around a conference table(and one woman). The designer and the project manager were probably laughing at me, but I basically refused to look at anything else until we got some options with more diversity. I’ve been sending examples from this collection around the office ever since it came out to help us all do better!

  59. Being a stock photographer myself, these really speak to me. Great job!!

  60. Laughing alone with salad! Lolololol!!!

  61. For us 50+, we’ve got the feminist + aging imagery to deal with. This is a good step.

  62. YES! I love these so much! I had the opportunity to attend the launch of Take the Lead Challenge last week and was able to see Sheryl speak. Carla Harris was also amazing! Very inspiring.