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It Shouldn’t Be Women Laughing Alone With Salad



Written by: Nicola Ray | Modern

Last week I did a Google search for images of ‘female’ CEOs and was shocked at the results that came back. 

With the rising number of CEOs of global companies, including Oracle, HP, Xerox, Yahoo, GM, Lockheed Martin and Pepsico, I would have thought there would have been better results.

Instead of images showing these women as credible presenters, genuine people, doing their job and being serious doing it (not laughing or smiling sweetly), I was presented with a mixed bag of images, including a woman with her feet up on a desk, a woman in sports kit in the office and far too many women cocking their head into submission and looking pretty with low cut blouses.

The same search for men, yielded completely different results.  The men were serious, looking powerful and authoritative and there were certainly no gratuitous shots of flesh.

It makes me sad.  And you wonder why women feel they need more positive role models and lobbying groups such as Women on Boards driving womens’ agendas in Whitehall?

It made me think about a discussion we had in the office a few weeks back about the Tumblr Women Laughing Alone With Salad.  There’s much debate on the topic, with some saying that this type of imagery is compounded by magazine editors choosing it and therefore that’s what the stock libraries give them.

That said, my search wasn’t on a stock library.  It was on Google – which compiles images from websites, news sources and stock libraries – and the visuals that the search throw up, really weren’t that much better.

For the women, the images are wide smiles with lots of teeth, far too many tilted heads and surprisingly windy offices and conference centres as hair blows behind them.  They’re a touch contrived, often lacking in authority with just a sniff of sexiness about them.   Go further down the page (outside of this clipping) and you’ll find women sitting at their desk in their sports kit or with their feet up, and yes, the shots do get a lot sexier.

And the men?

There are more serious poses, men at conferences speaking or looking straight to camera with a light smile.  There are hardly any teeth to be seen and certainly no wind blowers on their wavy locks. To even things out, there are a few amusing images like the one with baby in a sling (multitasking) and the CEO with a Mohican haircut.

For me, the problem I had was that I wanted to provide an illustrator with a selection of female personas to use as a basis for a drawing that suggested a positive role model where success was based on ability, not on looks, physique or sexiness.  What surprised me was that it was harder than I thought, even with the female CEOs that grace our top global businesses.

Only 5% of the Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. In the UK, we have 5 women at the helm of FTSE 100 companies (a similar percentage to the US).

So why not more positive imagery? One day, I’ll hope that the woman laughing alone with salad will be a thing of the past.  What are your thoughts?


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