Leaning too far back: Women in stock photography

Leaning too far back: Women in stock photography

A few weeks back, LinkedIn sent me a recommended influencer post about perceptions of employee underachievement. The topic didn’t grab me, but the photo sure did.

woman deskStock photos are generally risible, with staged pictures of men in suits earnestly shaking hands and flawlessly diverse executive teams ruminating in boardrooms. But something about this image I found particularly disquieting. The woman is in the classic stock art sterile office of unbranded computers, paperless desks, and empty binders. But something about her leaning far back in a sleeveless top, with her feet in six inch stilettos made me pause and wonder, “Does anyone in your office look like that?” LinkedIn is a career networking site, not an office supply catalog — somehow I expected the bar for depicting women to be a little higher.

Turns out I’m not alone in worrying about this. LeanIn and Getty have announced that they are going to take on the portrayal of women in stock photos. There will be a special collection that represents women and families in “more empowering ways” which I hope means more reflective of real women in real workplaces.

As Jonathan Klein, the chief executive of Getty remarked, “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.” As a more visual language of communication dominates the web, the images we choose to include in articles and blog posts make a lasting impression. This initiative may provide us with the means to tell a more contemporary story of women in the workplace.

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