Published On: Sat, Apr 25th, 2015

Is Google Images Biased Against Women?

“You need to know whether gender stereotyping in search image results actually shifts people’s perceptions before you can say whether this is a problem."


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Are Google image searches inherently biased against women? That is what a new study from the University of Washington claims.

Why did it take so long for a formal study to prove what Norm McDonald already showed on his short lived cable sports show a few years ago?

On one of the only nine episodes ever aired of “Sports Show with Norm Macdonald” in 2011, the comic showed that attempted Google searches for WNBA players kept on showing results for NBA players instead. After that piece aired, however, Google corrected the problem.

The UW study points out that while 27% of all CEOS are women, only 11% of the results in a Google image search for CEOs are women. Only 25% of the images shown in a search for women were authors while 64% of authors, according to the study, are women.

On the flip side, while the field of telemarketing is evenly split between men and women, 64% of the results shown in a search for their images are of women.

“You need to know whether gender stereotyping in search image results actually shifts people’s perceptions before you can say whether this is a problem. And, in fact, it does — at least in the short term, ” said one of the study’s co-authors Sean Munson, UW assistant professor of human centered design and engineering.

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