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Sheryl Sandberg Wants Stock-Photo Women to Lean In, Too

"You can't be what you can't see," said the Facebook COO as she, announced a partnership with Getty Images at the first Makers Conference.

Makers Conference/AOL Inc.

When a friend of Sheryl Sandberg’s was looking for a stock image of a female plumber, all she found online were women posing in lingerie and clutching wrenches.

“In order to get to real equality, we need to change a lot — public policy, institutional barriers,” the Facebook COO said this morning at the first Makers Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. “We also have to change the stereotypes around men and women. Literally changing the images.”

Onstage with Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” Sandberg announced that her nonprofit,, would be partnering with Getty Images, the largest collection of stock photographic images, to make a special “Lean In” collection of 2,500 images with more empowering portrayals of women.

Stock images, generic scenes of home and office that are used by corporate marketers and journalists alike, can reinforce bias by often showing, for example, men in power poses and women with children. Sandberg said that she hopes to change gender stereotypes by rethinking these images.

“We have no women in lingerie holding wrenches,” Sandberg said of the new collection.

She narrated as a slideshow with some sample images from her collection played onscreen before an audience of about 400.

“An older woman, she’s working and physically leaning into the table,” Sandberg said. “Women with agency, actively engaged, women in power poses.”

Onscreen appeared images of young women playing with robots, women holding iPads, women lifting weights. And — something Sandberg said was equally important — there were images of men being fathers, men holding babies.

“Leadership looks white and looks male because that’s what history has taught us,” she said. “Stereotypes are a way of organizing the world.”

Sandberg argued that consumer marketing was one of the most active ways in which women receive messages, even if it meant using feminism to sell products.

“The question is, how do we market to them? We can either market against feminism, or we can have ads that actually break down gender stereotypes,” she said. “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

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