Do me a favour. Make a note of where you are (cafe, office, train carriage). Do a quick audit of the images surrounding you – magazine covers, adverts, posters. How many women can you see? What are they doing? Do you recognise them as celebrities, or are they anonymous? How old are they? What is their ethnicity? Are they actively “doing” something more inspiring than drinking tea, or posing unnaturally?
I’m writing this in a hair salon. I see a closeup of Angelina Jolie on the cover of my magazine and an advert for the salon, featuring six white women with good hair. Am I represented, or am I being sold an old fashioned ideal of what another group of people believe my life is meant to be like?
There is strong evidence that women and girls are more successful if they are surrounded by images of positive female role models. If you didn’t see Brighton consultancy Storythings’ work for Pearson’s Nevertheless brand – targeting women in STEM, check out your free downloads of the posters. I love this series of illustrations of STEM heroines, such as astronaut Mae Jemison and mathematician Gladys West. Each was created by a female illustrator from the countries they represent.
For the first women’s march in 2017 on the Inauguration Day, Shepard Fairey created three iconic ‘We The People’ images of women that anyone could download for free and march with.
Who are you surrounded by? In our home we have Wonder Woman, Angela Davis, Frida Kahlo, the Chinese Girl, women of the black power and civil rights movements, as well as Indian goddesses. They surround and envelope me in my home and office. I still have the posters of the first three SheSays Brighton events on my wall, thanks to illustrator Brigitte Sutherland.
When you are trawling through free stock images, is it harder to find photos of groups or pairs of women, who are working? Or doing anything together such as drinking coffee with a laptop, in a natural setting? If you are a photographer, consider creating some images of women talking and working together and uploading them to Unsplash or other free stock libraries. If you’re an art director for a stock library, please consider that having more than one woman being active in the world is more inspiring to everyone who sees that photo.
I’ve seen this image too many times to count. #womenintech
We need to see it to be it. We are bombarded with images that tell us we are not good enough, not really even people, if we don’t have the finest eyelashes, the flattest stomach, or the latest bag. When it comes to work, lifestyle and being your best self, who do you have as a daily inspiration? Create your own images at events and share them widely. And of course, who are you following on social media? Here’s some good advice from The Other Box on instagram.
I had a ‘moment’ in a card shop recently…
We can’t change everything at once, but as you start to become aware of the images around you, you won’t be able to ‘un-see’ when there’s a lack of diversity. So if you’re pioneering in a male dominated space, just by existing and showing up each day, make sure you can create some room around you for some bad-ass female role models. Even if it’s just a tiny sticker.