Sheryl Sandberg and Gwen Ifill, 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.”


 scoff all you want, this is an easy fix that subtly but definitely impacts public perception of gender roles. 


Yes, with all the issues FB, and our society at large, face, the surfeit of woman plumbers in lingerie is certainly our most vexing problem.

Jeez, is her 15 minutes up yet?


@madfoot  Did I scoff?  Look, I am sure that there is work to be done here (and I'm SURE she's expanding the campaign to include some pictures of black doctors and white IT workers).  

I was just wondering if she spends as much time on her day job as she does with all of her leaning.  I'd call her a fame-whore but that's sexist, so let's just say that she's an excessively fame-seeking personality and more celebrity than corporate manager and I've tuned her out, regardless of how valid her message is. 


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