Stock and Sex: Gender Stereotypes in Modern Photography

Stock and Sex: Gender Stereotypes in Modern Photography

Stock photography (non-custom photos pulled from enormous online databases) play an unavoidable but ever-important role in the world of graphic design. Unfortunately, as any designer who has worked with them can attest, much of stock photography is woefully out of date and out of touch with the modern world.

Stock photography has always played into stereotypes. “Men work outdoors and run businesses while women work at home and raise a family.” Really? What year is it? And when you do see photos of people breaking out of these old-fashioned gender roles it’s usually to highlight that they’re doing so (there are a staggering number of photos with women literally climbing a “corporate ladder”). Not to mention a depressing lack of diversity throughout.


Thankfully, finally, someone is attempting to improve the quality and diversity seen in stock photography. Sheryl Sandberg and her organization Lean In are working with Getty Images to add thousands of images to their database that show women as doctors (what?), engineers (gasp!), and leaders in business, as well as men playing active roles in the raising of their families (can it be?). In other words: people being people, stereotypes refreshingly rejected.

You can read more about the initiative and see some examples of the photos here.

If anyone needs us, we’ll be thanking our lucky stars for initiatives like Sheryl’s and wondering why on earth we have to look at 20 more photos of white businessmen standing on the beach with luggage.