This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Shutterstock and SeeHer collaborate to accurately portray women through imagery . . . and how this representation opens new doors for us all.
Authentic media representation matters now more than ever. Thanks to global communication via the internet, brands, influencers, and all people have the ability to share stories and experiences. With today’s advancements in communication, which include visual communications by way of photos and videos, it is critical that our media authentically represents all people and paths of life.
Of course, authentic representation is a core value of Shutterstock, which is why we have partnered with SeeHer. The mission of SeeHer is to increase the representation and accurate portrayal of all women and girls in marketing, media, and entertainment to reflect culture and transform society.
With SeeHer as our global creative partner, both brands are making it easier than ever for consumers to pin-point perfect imagery that’s authentically inclusive.
Together, we ensure that easily discoverable SeeHer-approved content collections are available to Shutterstock customers. These collections help further both brands’ missions of driving the accurate portrayal of women and girls in marketing, advertising, media, and entertainment.
Here, Meeckel Beecher, Shutterstock’s Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, speaks with Latha Sarathy, the Chief Research Officer of the Association of National Advertisers. They discuss how SeeHer and Shutterstock are advancing representation through photo collections, specifically their Asian Pacific Islander collection.
How Are SeeHer and Shutterstock Advancing Representation?
Meeckel Beecher: Authentically representing people requires us to expand how we include, show, and talk about others. Our partnership excites me because we have this shared purpose of expanding how people are seen.
Latha Sarathy: I totally agree! SeeHer’s mission is the accurate portrayal of women and girls in marketing, media, and entertainment to reflect culture and transform society.
Left: Latha Sarathy, Chief Research Officer of the Association of National Advertisers. Right: Meeckel Beecher, Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Shutterstock.
Through all our measurement tools, workshops, and guides, we have driven this mission forward by helping our members better understand how to include and depict people with narratives that support gender equality.
Through the Gender Equality Measure (GEM) methodology, which SeeHer spearheaded, we have tested close to 300,000 pieces of content globally. This allows us to create benchmarks, frameworks, and diagnostics to support our members.
We’re so excited to tailor these insights for Shutterstock!
The Asian Pacific Islander (API) collection was the first of its kind and really highlighted the breadth and depth of the API community.
I’m also really looking forward to the Contributor Training Modules that we’re jointly creating. By focusing on different aspects of women, like age, ability, etc., we hope to create global best practices for all of your contributors.
Beecher: The media has a tremendous influence on how we see people. It is often the only way we learn about others who are not like us. That is precisely why we have to be very thoughtful about how people are represented in stories.
Sarathy: Very true. We know that 81% of adults feel media and marketing are crucial to shaping gender roles. 84% believe it has the power to teach children that girls can do anything that boys can do and vice versa. That is a significant responsibility!
Still, only 25% of women feel that media and marketing portray them accurately. So, we have a lot of work to do.
We have made progress. 88% of ads we have GEM tested have a woman in them. This indicates that representation has increased.
Only 40% have women of color and the majority have women depicted in stereotypical roles. This is holding us back as an industry.
For example, when we see women portrayed as having agency over their lives or working in counter-stereotypical roles, like a STEM engineer, this drives up GEM scores.
That’s important because high GEM scores drive sales and brand reputation and purchase intent–among both female and male consumers!
So, if you want to drive your business forward, you absolutely need to get representation and portrayal right.
Beecher: This is not about being prescriptive. Unless very egregious, which is often misrepresentation, authentic representation to me is saying, “Yes, you have captured one aspect of API women but so many others exist.”
Sarathy: Totally true! Thinking specifically about API women, they are often portrayed as a monolith. This ignores the complexities and nuances of various API cultures and increases negative stereotypes.
This has significance, as misconceptions and stereotypes fuel discrimination.
SeeHer believes that authentic representation and storytelling are more important now than ever. Media may be the only window for many to see others who are different from themselves.
This was why we created the #WriteHerRight Guide for Authentic Representation & Storytelling for API women.This guide brings to the surface the nuances of the API audience. It dives deep into individual experiences–from the multitude of languages, religions, skin tones, and body types.
There are nuances in our intergenerational relationships, and in our names themselves, that have meaning and need to be understood. The Shutterstock imagery we used throughout the guide was a critical element in bringing to life that diversity and wide spectrum of API women.
Beecher: I also love that this media broadens the viewpoints of API women. It also helps with changing minds, even within API communities. It bridges generational gaps, too.
Sarathy: You know, the stereotype of Asians over-focusing on academic achievement and professional success is actually true for many API families. I’ve experienced it myself.
The feeling that I always had to reach for that next rung of the career ladder, whether I really wanted to or not. And, having a career in media and marketing definitely did not fit the model!
But we need to dismantle these stereotypes of Asian Americans as the “model minority.” We need to stop focusing on a narrow band of professions, because this can cause frustration and disappointment between generations and for individuals.
The “model minority” image suggests that Asian Americans are always successful and, thus, it erases the difficulties many of us face—personally and professionally.
API women often feel alienated in professional settings. This can affect career growth and general confidence. In fact, there is a 72% drop off of API women from entry level positions to the C Suite.
So, we have to change these stereotypes, not just for society overall, but for ourselves. We must be mindful of representation through imagery, for the good of our children. This will help them know that they can be anything they want to be.
Again, those are results from the power of partnerships, like SeeHer & Shutterstock. By getting portrayal, representation, and imagery right, we show others and ourselves that, “If You Can See Her, You Can Be Her.”
That extends to all of us, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. It is about us collectively and our humanity.
License this cover image via dodotone.