Sexist search? Google less likely to show women high-paying job ads than men

sexist search results google less likely to show women high paying job ads than men screen shot 2015 07 08 at 1 24 15 pm
Updated 7-9-2015 by Jeremy Kaplan: Story was updated to include comments from Google.

Is the algorithm sexist? Or is it just us? Women are less likely than men to be shown ads for high-paying jobs, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University and International Computer Science Institute — but Google argues that’s because of the job posters, not the search giant.

Accusations that Google skews search results to benefit itself are nothing new, but these allegations seem to mark an even more disturbing trend. “In particular, we found that males were shown ads encouraging the seeking of coaching services for high paying jobs more than females,” the study’s authors wrote.

This isn’t a case of men simply searching for such jobs more frequently than their female counterparts — the study involved an automated testing rig named AdFisher that created 17,370 fake profiles for both male and female job seekers. These false identities only went to sites with job postings, and ultimately saw a total of 600,000 adverts, which researchers subsequently analyzed. Most damning of all, each of these nonexistent users began with the same basic information — blank profiles, identical behavior — with the only differentiating factor being their gender. This established that the discrimination was not situational, but rather seems implicit to Google’s ad targeting system.

Ultimately, the team found that men (or male profiles) saw ads for high-paying jobs a shocking six times more frequently than did female profiles. While Google showed ads for “$200K+” executive jobs to men 1,852 times, the same ads were only displayed 318 times to women. “I think our findings suggest that there are parts of the ad ecosystem where kinds of discrimination are beginning to emerge and there is a lack of transparency,” Carnegie Mellon professor Annupam Datta told Technology Review. “This is concerning from a societal standpoint.”

But is it because of Google? The company told Digital Trends that it doesn’t make the decisions about who to target with ads: It’s the advertisers themselves that pick an audience.

“Advertisers can choose to target the audience they want to reach, and we have policies that guide the type of interest-based ads that are allowed,” a spokeswoman told Digital Trends. “We provide transparency to users with ‘Why This Ad’ notices and Ad Settings, as well as the ability to opt out of interest-based ads.”

Accusations of sexism in the tech industry are nothing new (or even, sadly, particularly surprising). A Google image search of the term “CEO” is remarkable in its lack of imagination — of the first 25 image results, 24 are men, 23 are white men, and the 25th is a CEO Barbie. Yet the prevalence of men in power is hardly due to Google. Still, the study authors call the trend disturbing, a fact that does nothing to lessen the substantial gender gap in the workforce.

“Male candidates getting more encouragement to seek coaching services for high-paying jobs could further the current gender pay gap,” the authors wrote. “Even if this decision was made solely for economic reasons, it would continue to be discrimination.”


Forget transponders with Peasy’s nationwide pay-as-you-go toll service

Verra Mobility launched Peasy, a consumer highway and bridge toll payment service. Designed to be less hassle than managing traditional transponder or toll tag accounts, Peasy pays tolls as they are levied across most of the U.S.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Jump into an internet DeLorean and play free Commodore 64 games online

The Internet Archive has added more than 8,800 full Commodore 64 games to its software library. Here's how you can play them completely free in your browser without the need for a joystick.

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.

Carbuying can be exhausting: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.

Your ‘Do Not Track’ tool might be helping websites track you, study says

New research from the "Do Not Track" features embedded in popular browsers are being ignored, opening up the possibility of consumers having their information targeted by specific ads based on their web histories and cookies. 

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.

Afraid that Bitcoin could be a bubble? Here's how to sell what you've got

If you're investing in cryptocurrencies, it's important to have your exit strategy in place if prices start to crash. If you've decided it's time to get out or just want to learn how to sell Bitcoins, here's how to get started.

Don't take your ISP's word for it: Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.

Feed your fandom: These are the best YouTube channels for sports lovers

If you're a cable cutter who still wants to enjoy quality sports highlights and analysis, YouTube is the place to go. There are plenty of great sports-centric channels on YouTube, each of which provides great highlights and top-shelf…
Social Media

YouTube is back after crashing for users around the world

It's rare to see YouTube suffer serious issues, but the site went down around the world for a period of time on October 16. It's back now, and we can confirm it's loading normally on desktop and mobile.

Chrome 70 is now available and won’t automatically log you in to the browser

Google has officially launched Chrome version 70 on Windows Mac and Linux. The update introduces some new Progressive Web App integrations on Windows 10 and also tweaks the much controversial auto login with Google Account feature.
Smart Home

Here’s everything you need to know about Amazon Prime Pantry

The marvels of the Internet have made it possible to do all your shopping from the comfort of your living room. Amazon Prime Pantry allows you to buy groceries and household items online. Here's more info about the service.