I don’t get it…

This collection of photos from the “lean in” collection are supposed to be “photos of female leadership in contemporary work and life,” but they just look like women to me. If I was going to group them I’d probably say “conservative, mostly middle class women”. I’d love to hear why people think they’re in any way “different” than … well normal women that aren’t leaning in? Is the implication that most people don’t know women who weld? Or know how to use a hammer? Or work on computers in the design industry? Or have kids or husbands? Or in the case of the fishing photo “stand in a clean apron next to some guy actually doing all the work”?

I mean, they’re nice pictures of middle class women, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t get how that’s “leaning in” or “inspiring”. They’re just normal people, or is that the point?

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3 thoughts on “I don’t get it…

  1. Actually, it is inspiring. The fact that there was realization that women were being poorly represented in stock photos and that there are now these new images that, yes, depict “normal women” is a huge thing. It’s huge becasue before this women were only being depicted as submissive, overtly female, women – and not shown in everyday contemporary situations in the workplace. These situations look normal to you and me, but aren’t the norm everywhere, and definitely weren’t the norm in stock photos. The stereotypical model in the pencil skirt with heels and glasses that’s used for MBA type content comes to mind as the usual depiction, and now we have more realistic images to inspire both adult women and young girls. AND the more this looks like the “norm” in images the more people’s impressions will be shifted if they don’t currently see this as a “norm.”

    I could also go on about how all the images DO depict women “leaning in” vs. women not leaning in – but I should do some work :)

    Kayleen Project Manager ________________ gravity switch Nice People. Award-Winning Process. Websites Done Right.

    p: 413.586.9596 gravityswitch.com


    1. So it’s the issue of stock photos getting better? This is fascinating because if you search for “men” and “women” on iStock they’re all equally… plastic. But if you do the same search on Getty Images (which usually has higher quality images) the men still look white, plastic, and fake… but now the women look more “real” (although all white and thin).


  2. The body shape/image thing stuck at to me as well (that’s an entirely different set of opinions about our bodies in advertising, though), but basically what Kayleen said. The idea of “women in business” is a very narrow, visual concept. Also, bringing the idea of women AND family life into the picture is a huge deal considering how work life vs. home life is something women feel more pressured to balance while for men an extreme division or imbalance between the two is considered the norm.

    The fishing one is actually a really good example of power dynamics – the clean person is assumed to be the person calling the shots, not in the more subservient position of carrying out the “dirty work”. It’s also about showing women in positions that are typically thought of as male – the more you see something, the last outlandish it actually seems when you encounter it in real life. I think there’s also something to the women in the more “masculine” roles being portrayed as feminine and not being made to look more masculine (and thereby make everyone feel more comfortable about the “unusual” role their choosing).

    On the Harvard Business Review this morning, I was also reading about how managers were responsible for changing the landscape in their workforces re: male vs. female numbers. Managers need to be SHOWING that hiring women is not unusual and working with women is not unusual (and that it’s about talent and potential and ROI, not just diversity quotas), AND the company needs to function in a way that works for both men and women and isn’t just asking women to squeeze themselves into workflows that are centered how men think and problem solve.


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