Holly Harper | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 2 September 2015

How Google Images is Still Gendering our Professional Lives

Heres How Google Images is Still Gendering our Professional Lives

The Debrief: Ever wondered what Google really thinks about the idea of gender equality in the 21st Century? We found out the depressing results.

I don’t normally like to spend my free time looking at images of people at work – but yesterday was different. In a year in which feminism and the idea of gender equality became matters of urgent and promising debate, it appears that Google is lagging behind. First page image results for many popular professions reveal that society is still depressingly gendered. Here is how current statistics match up to Google’s perception of gender in the job market. 


As of 2014, of the 365,000 teachers in the UK, 74% of these were women. In a profession so dominated by women, the gender imbalance can be seen most clearly when you consider the proportion of women who occupy leadership roles within schools – shockingly, only 36% of secondary schools have a woman as head teacher. Even in this predominantly female profession it is men who are occupying powerful positions and the top pay bracket.


Despite Google Images reflecting our overwhelmingly masculine perception of the medical profession, in 2012 the proportion of male to female doctors was 57% to 43% and it is forecast that by 2017 there will be more female doctors than male doctors. This promising increase of female medical students has, however, been questioned by many within the medical profession who see women doctors as inefficient and family orientated. 


In the UK only 9% of engineers are women, whereas in Sweden women make up 26% of the engineering profession. This statistic disappointingly fails to reflect the fact that girls out-perform boys in many secondary school exams. It is clear that there is still much to be done in terms of encouraging girls to occupy previously male dominated subjects, like maths and science.


Google starkly reflects society’s gendered perception of social care roles. For a sector that has incurred huge cuts to its services under both the previous coalition and current government, the gender imbalance has become an acute issue for disabled and ageing men that rely on social care services. Only 16% of care workers are men – a figure that hasn’t changed since 2012.


This is another profession still dominated by our own gendered perceptions of whose responsibility it is to provide social care. Despite some claims that nursing has moved towards closing its gender gap, it’s clear that there’s still much to be achieved. 


Five per cent of the FTSE 100 companies are led by women, a statistic that gets even worse when you look more closely at the profession as a whole, with only 4.3% of the CEOs in the S&P top 500 companies being female. The overwhelmingly male-dominated nature of the corporate world is not only reflected in these statistics, but also in the almost comic lack of representation and diversity that appears on the first page of Google Images, in which the only female ‘CEO’ to appear is Barbie. I know equality isn’t a top priority for these people, but really?! 

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