It is said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.Org, agrees for she has launched a crusade to change images of girls and women used in advertising. In February, LeanIn.Org teamed up with Getty Images, one of the world’s leading creators and distributor of still imagery and footage, to form a curated photo library called the Lean In Collection that features powerful images of women, girls and families.
Sandberg, in an interview with ABC News anchor Amy Robach, said “this has endless endless opportunities to change the perception of women,” explaining that a “huge percentage” of images that we view on a daily bases come from marketing.
The Lean In Collection per Sandberg does not include women posed in sexy business suits and fishnet stockings, climbing ladders in red-soled stilettos. Nor do they show a harried working woman about to leave her house with a crying anxious baby clinging to her.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw an image of a man in a suit with a crying baby. That’s not the image you see. You see a man in a suit excited to have daddy home, right?” Sandberg asked. The photos instead, Sandberg said, are positive images of working moms, military women and bosses, with “real bodies, real families, raising real children … and also includes men in the home who have chosen to be primary caregivers.” Sandberg notes that most of the Getty images existed previous to the curation, but post collection, the sales of the photos were up by 50 percent.
Pamela Grossman, director of Visual Trends at Getty, is the woman who first brought this to Sandberg’s attention, along with LeanIn.Org’s contributing editor, Jessica Bennett. Grossman had been studying the depiction of women in images for the past 11 years. “Having more equal and more progressive images of females is not such ethics it’s also about economics,” says Grossman. “Women hold so much buying power – certainly in the US and growing worldwide – so it’s foolish not to figure out how to speak to women in a relevant and respectful way.”
Grossman and Bennett presented their findings first internally at Getty “to advocate our art directors and photographers internally so we could see more of those images in our collections,” and ultimately – via Leanin.org – to Sandberg herself. “Imagery is so powerful. It’s what changes your expectation of yourself and the world around us,” said Grossman.
Getty, Grossman said, also offers a 30 percent discount for all non-profits for the Lean In Collection and donates back a percentage of the license sales to LeanIn.org to further their mission to empower women. Grossman adds that Getty has two grants inspired by the Lean In Collection that show women in positions of power.