Unsplash | Plan International USA

What does equality look like?

Here at Plan International USA, we believe in the power of girls. We’ve been cultivating young leaders since 1937, and we’ve seen what they can do when they work together.

That’s why our We Are the Girls campaign focuses on bringing girls together to create change. In the U.S., we’ve gathered a group of girls between the ages of 13 and 18, who we’re calling Girls Out Loud, to help guide this effort. Through our private Instagram account, these girls safely share their thoughts and feelings about the experience of being a girl today — and talk about ways we can create change together.

Our partnership with Unsplash for Good

The first topic the Girls Out Loud have tackled is representation of girls in stock imagery. These pictures are powerful, and can reinforce dangerous stereotypes that perpetuate gender inequality. Right now, we know that words like “sexy” and “hot” are the No. 1 search terms associated with girls.

But, we wondered: What if we change the algorithm so that the results show more authentic pictures of girls? We could turn the demoralizing experience of seeing yourself depicted as a stereotype into a confidence-boosting experience of seeing yourself as you truly are.

So, Plan USA partnered with Unsplash, the internet’s source of freely usable visuals, to rethink the way girls are seen and revamp stock images to represent girls on their own terms. To start, we shared some of the top pictures of girls from Unsplash’s library with the Girls Out Loud and asked them whether they truly represented what it means to be a girl today. Here are a few examples of what they had to say:

A young person with long hair dyed the colors of the rainbow smiles for the camera at what looks like an LGBTQ+ celebration. Plan International USA partnering with Unsplash.

“They’re happy and take pride in their identity.”

Himangini, 16

A small child with two top buns happily jumps with their hand raised high! Plan International USA partnering with Unsplash.

“She looks joyful, confident, and ready to take on the world.”

— Lily, 15

Then, Unsplash  took this feedback to their community of photographers and challenged them to create more photos that authentically show girls as they really are. The result was Unsplash’s Girls vs. Stereotypes topic, calling for photos of real, confident girls that break barriers and promote gender equality. From Aug. 15 to Sept. 15, 2022, photographers submitted hundreds of their photos. Then, the Girls Out Loud selected their top 10 favorites as winners.

[Are you a girl between the ages of 13 and 18? Consider joining Girls Out Loud today!]

And as a result, Unsplash received more diverse submissions as well as the opportunity to tweak its algorithm to combat the societal biases that artificial intelligence perpetuates in search engines. By adding diversity tags to the accepted images, Unsplash can now feature more inclusive photos at the top of search results.

So, without further ado, here are the winning photos!

The Unsplash challenge is just one example of the amazing things girls can accomplish when they work together. To support more of Plan’s work bringing girls and young leaders together, please make a gift today.

We Are the Girls

Your contribution is tax deductible.

With your gift to Plan USA’s We Are the Girls campaign, you'll join girls and their allies to create lasting change across the world with projects designed for and with girls, that affirm their strength and resilience. Girls have what it takes to lead the fight for gender equality, and your support can help amplify the movement! Donations can support programs, innovation and infrastructure required to deliver our programs to girls and their communities in areas such as gender and youth equality, education, maternal and child health, humanitarian response, and skills and work.