Google Images found to under-represent female CEOs

Occurred: April 2015

Female CEOs in the US were significantly under-represented in Google Images' search results, according to a 2015 research study.

Researchers at the University of Washington and University of Maryland discovered (pdf) that women account for 27 percent of CEOs in the US, but only 11 percent of the top 100 Google image search results returned images of females. They also found that female construction workers 'tended to be sexualised caricatures of construction workers'.

The researchers also discovered that the first picture of a woman on Google Images is one of Barbie in a suit. The researchers argued that findings reinforced widely held perceptions of the kinds of people holding certain kinds of jobs, and left the technology company open to accusations of sexism and gender bias.

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google

Country: USA

Sector: Business/professional services

Purpose: Rank search results 

Technology: Search engine algorithm; Machine learning
Issue: Bias/discrimination - gender

Transparency: Governance; Black box

Research, advocacy 🧮

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: March 2023
Last updated: November 2023