The “Women Laughing Alone With Salad” meme mocked commonly circulated stock photo images reinforcing ridiculous stereotypes about women and became an Internet phenomenon.
Last month, Grey and image licensing partner Gallery Stock crafted a response, celebrating Women’s History Month with “Serious Women Working Alone with Snacks.”
“In the advertising world, in other industries, and in the larger world, the mentality of ‘women should smile more’ reigns, and it affects how women advance in their careers. Frankly, it feels as if women get promoted for politeness not performance,” Grey’s Famously Effective Women Group wrote in a statement. “And polite smiles aren’t always the key to creative progress and honesty, and men can often advance professionally with unsmiling aggression. We want to say, loud and clear: When we don’t smile, and we do amazing work, we deserve the same opportunities.”
True to its title, the series of photos shows female Grey employees, including Grey New York CEO Debby Reiner, too busy with work to take a break, snacking at their desks. They’re even eating carbs!
“The message is clear, and you should read it without any upspeak: no one has to smile all the time to deliver the best creative ideas. Creativity is candid and human and creates alignment after a spark of conflict,” Reiner said in a statement. “In this intentionally fun way, we want to seriously impart that performance is its own reward, and it’s OK if you don’t smile at every step of the process.”
“The visual options are there for the ad industry to move away from the focus of homogeneous moods and settings,” added Gallery Stock creative director Jen Fox Freeman. “Women have made it clear that they value authenticity in marketing. We don’t always need to depict a polite, over-acted ideal; we can tell real stories and respect women’s depth and character.”