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Why are Google searches so sexist?

Your nana aside, it’s safe to assume none of us thinks of Google as an animate being with its own thoughts and intentions.

You type in a search and… bam! It’s a beautiful thing. Google and its intricate algorithms have evolved over time to “learn” what its users want and find most relevant. But unfortunately, in many instances, it looks like Google has learned to be a sexist pig.

Really? How can Google really have sexist thoughts, you ask? Here are some examples to illustrate the point.

The search says it all. Type in a search for “girls in…” What comes up in the autofill text? Well, your top three are “girls in yoga pants” and “girls in white dresses” and “girls in country songs.” Not “girls in science fairs” or “girls in sports” or even “girls in spelling bees.” Apparently Google’s personality, based on its recommendations, is oddly similar to your drunk, perverted uncle who just loves him some Conway Twitty.

Or start typing “women who…” One of the top Google recommendations is “women who kill comedy.” Great. Now Google is acting more like an old-school Jerry Lewis knockoff.

Here’s another example from @JodieLayne, who was doing some research on women breaking into the technology sector.

This isn’t a new problem for Google. It’s been accused of sexism before. A report released by SPARK Movement early in 2014 shows how little diversity is represented in the now-iconic Google doodles. The #DoodleUs research project shows that out of 445 Google doodles created between 2010 and 2013, only 17 percent honored women, not one of which was a woman of color.

The best way for Google to become more inclusive on its public face is to hire more women internally. And while Google, by its own admission, has a way to go before achieving a reasonable level of diversity amongst its workforce, the top Google leadership has outlined clear steps it will take to attract more women to its ranks. Right now, Google employs 70 percent men and 30 percent women.

Google is investing in programs to get school-age girls excited about technology and science. Google also looks for women leaders within its ranks for promotions and offers killer benefits for working moms.

At this year’s Google I/O — the annual meeting for developers to learn the latest about Google platforms — keynote senior vice president of Android and Chrome apps Sundar Pichai talked about the interest the company has in attracting more women. Last year, he noted, only 8 percent of the Google I/O attendees were women.

“This year we have 20 percent female participation,” Pichai said. “And we have 1,000 women in the room.”

It’s a start. In the meantime, Google still struggles to reach out — and speak to — women. It’s trying, damn it. And that’s great. Way more than you’ll ever get out of your pervy uncle.

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