Last week, Getty Images unveiled the Lean In Collection, a "library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them."

The collection, collaboratively curated by Getty and Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.Org, includes more than 2,500 images depicting contemporary female leadership. The new photos add a huge dose of color and reality to the dull realm of stock photography, where women weirdly laugh while eating a salad and struggle to drink water.

As a researcher of female Christian leaders and one who has argued for greater female leadership representation at our conferences and in our churches and ministries, I applaud the effort of Getty and LeanIn.Org to challenge the female stereotypes often illustrated in stock photos, but I still believe it takes more than appealing photos for women and girls to embrace the potential career fields and positions open to them.

It's easy to see the positives: The new photos give a face to the invisible millions who don't fit within the narrow, stereotypical realm of stock photography. "The stock imagery around women is embarrassing," said Jessica Bennett, contributing editor at, "You can't be what you can't see, so if women and girls are not seeing images of powerful women and girls who are leaders, then they may not aspire to become that."

The LeanIn Collection notably includes minorities and the elderly—demographics that are often overlooked in stock photography—and portray female professionals in medicine, veterinary medicine, military, art, business, and culinary arts.

But are photographs enough to change deep-seated perceptions and stereotypes we have about women? Are they enough to change the "image" we have in our heads about women?

In my research on female Christian leaders, I basically took a snapshot of the image that people have in their heads about female Christian leaders and Christian women in general. When I compared what people thought of female leaders to what they thought of women in general, what do you think I discovered?

They have nothing in common.

People generally believe:

1. Women are more communal than female leaders.

2. Women are less task-oriented than female leaders.

3. Women are less relational than female leaders.

4. Women have less transformational leadership qualities than female leaders.

5. Women are less agentic (getting things done, confident, assertive, etc.) than female leaders.

The descriptions of Christian women, like the ubiquitous stock photography, seemed silly, insulting, and far-removed from the women I know in my everyday life. And that's why trading out visual images isn't enough, because the trouble is deeper than stock photography—it's the image we have about women in our own minds. Until this changes, the progress for Christian women in leadership will be small and unremarkable.

For real change to happen, real progress to be made for Christian women, we need:

Visible women leaders at every level of organizational leadership.

Photographs aren't enough; we need incarnational models to which we can aspire. There are Christian women leading at all levels in Christian churches and parachurch ministries, but they aren't very visible. Right now, there's a woman in Chicago establishing a food pantry and vocational center for the urban poor. There's a woman in Honolulu visiting strip clubs every Friday night just to let the working girls know that someone really, truly sees them. There's a woman in South Carolina creating programs that heal leprosy and help lepers be integrated back into their communities. There's a woman in Grand Rapids, Michigan, raising awareness about human trafficking. There's a woman in Thailand ministering to children with the dream of turning the country back to Christ. These women are God's invisible army.

Mentors and sponsors.

Research indicates that both mentors and sponsors are critical to the development of a leader. Mentors are senior colleagues that provide advice and feedback, while sponsors are active advocates promoting you and your skills within the organization. Mentoring helps younger women or newer employees connect with more seasoned leaders on staff. Mentors can help women identify areas of giftedness and provide a vision of how God can work through our life by using their gifts. Mentoring also helps younger leaders understand how to integrate ministry and family life effectively.

Stories—not just images—of female leaders.

We're hardwired for stories. We tell them around the breakfast table, over the phone, the Internet, the "water cooler" at work, and at bedtime as we tuck our children in for the night. Stories are the way we experience the world, the way we make sense of the world, and they humanize abstract principles and statistics. Sharing the stories of women leaders along with, or in lieu of, their image will provide women with a robust vision of what they are capable of.