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The changing face of women -- as seen by Getty Images

What does the depiction of women in stock photos mean about how we, as a society, think about the role of women?

This fascinating article in the New York Times’ Upshot section analyzes the top-selling pics on Getty Images for the search term “woman” from 2007 through 2017.  The image above on the left is the top-seller from 2007.  The one on the right is the top-seller from 2017.

Sheryl Sandberg worked with Getty in 2014 to develop the “Lean In” collection, designed to “seed media with more modern, diverse, and empowering images of women.”  Some interesting trends in that collection:

·         Among the most downloaded images from that set of images in 2017 are women working in science and engineering, but they typically run in stories specifically about women in science, rather than general stories about science or tech.

·         The most common image shows a Caucasian woman in her 20s with long brown hair

·         Images of non-white women tended to appear in stories about race and ethnicity

·         Popular this year are images of women who have dirt on them – apparently symbolizing the idea that women have grit.

The article is a feast for those of us who love to analyze image trends. If Getty Images existed in 1987 -- or 1967 or 1937 -- I wonder what the most downloaded images of women would have been then?

(Both images above ran in the New York Times online edition on September 7, 2017.  Image on left courtesy of Stephan Hoeck/Getty Images.  Image on right courtesy of Jordan Siemens/Getty Images)