October 16, 2014


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Shestock partners with Researcher Lee Chapman to Share her Original Research Measuring the Frequency and Nature of Gender Bias in Stock Photography of Girls and Women in STEM Images

Shestock has partnered with researcher Lee Chapman, a Masters candidate in Digital and Visual Communications at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, to present her original research findings regarding the frequency of sexism  in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) stock photos.

Chapman’s findings both confirm what many have anecdotally believed for years and provided some unexpected insights.

o   An image search for “Engineer” was 76% likely to be male-only, 6% likely to be female, and only 9% likely to be equal between males and females.  Similarly, a search for “Mathematician” was 88% male-only, and “Computer Programmer” 84% male-only.

o   Even in a search for “Female Engineer,” only 30% of the images were solely female, while 26% were only males or male-dominated (compared to 81% solely male images for a “Male Engineer” search).

o   The results were more balanced in searches related to “Scientist” – only 56% male for a search of “Scientist” alone, and a search for “Female Scientist” found 77% female-only images.

o   In addition to gender representations, the research found that in images with a mix of males and females, males were in dominant or leadership positions on average 58% of the time verses 30% for women and 12% equally balanced.

The conclusions to draw from this initial research are many.  For example, Cultivation Theory research established that stereotypes in TV can be viewed as reality; when applied here, the research shows that we face a similar risk of making underrepresentation of females in STEM a reality simply through imbalanced stock photos.  Under the similar Framing Theory research, the prevalence of dominate male images (56% vs. 30%) will frame STEM careers as male-centric and reinforce our existing gender gaps in representation.  The perpetuation of career stereotypes and male domination in images engenders a host of social ills, including perpetuation of the wage gap, underrepresentation of women in all professional fields, and supporting a career image this is hostile to parenting for both men and women.

Chapman notes that the research did not measure viewer perceptions or even measure how often each stock image had been licensed or even viewed in an effort to weight any findings.  Still, with imagery becoming more pervasive in our environments and within our technology devices, these findings help define the metrics stock image buyers should use to assess the images they consider.

Shestock was fortunate to work with Chapman over the summer to bring her research to Shestock’s leading women photographers.  Shestock’s mission is to support women photographers capturing insightful and inspired images of the real lives of real women, and it has dedicated 2014/ 2015 to building the leading collection of girls and women in STEM stock images.  Supporting Chapman’s research has helped advance Shestock’s mission of positive and gender-balanced images of women in STEM.

Chapman undertook this research due to frustrations she experienced in her time as an art director:

“I have always been frustrated with the assumptions and stereotypes in a lot of stock photography. When I started to research the gender gap in STEM for a class project, I started to wonder how STEM was being promoted visually. From there, I worked with the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson University to help create a marketing and branding campaign that spoke to female youth. I loved the work and elements involved so much, I decided to focus on STEM imagery for my thesis topic.”

Chapman presented her research recently to Shestock’s photographers, along with her recommendations for creating images of girls and women in STEM which are more balanced and authentic.


Lee Chapman has been working in the communications field for over ten years, and has experience ranging from radio to illustration.  After completing her undergraduate degree in Mass Media Communications, she applied her degree to her interest in fine art by working in art direction and graphic design before returning to receive her Masters Degree in Professional Communication at Ryerson University.  She resides in Toronto and could not live without dogs, art, coffee and wine.


Shestock is the first and only stock image agency to exclusively provide female-centric images by professional women photographers.  Its mission it to fix the broken dialog between marketers and the women they are trying to reach while also simultaneously satisfying the needs of buyers, women and artists.  Shestock is certified as a majority woman-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and is headquartered in Petaluma, CA.