As revolting as the above sounds, it’s true: a new study shows Google doesn’t show high paid jobs to women. But wait, it may not be Google’s fault!
The study was based at Carnegie Mellon, where a team of researchers devised a scheme to test the world’s most popular search engine. They created an ad hunting program which they appropriately named AdFisher, which they programed to pretend to switch its identity from male to female job seekers. They thus created 17,370 fake user profiles which were set to only visit job seeking websites.
The AdFisher “fished” for 600 thousand ads which were subsequently studied by the researchers. The most staggering of the results was that Google displayed job coaching ads differently for male and female users.
The best example would be that of a career coaching that said it would assure a “$200k+” pay. This particular ad appeared 1,852 times for the male users, yet just 318 times for the female job seekers.
Google has been quick to defend itself, as a woman spokesperson said that it is not up to Google’s algorithm to decide this. What it does do is deliver the ads to the target audiences desired by the people who made the ad in the first place.
The researchers behind the study admit that there is inherent discrimination in advertising, and it has been so for years as they’ve constantly delivered ads which overtly favor one gender group over another. They also state that regardless of the economic principles behind these ads that they found, it is still discrimination at a very basic level.
This has spurred criticism towards Google not it choosing which ads to display to which group, since they have revealed it is not their choice, but because they still let job advertisers chose between men and/or women as their target audience.
The study also showcased ads that appeared when users browsed sites relating to substance abuse. In these cases Google did not add that to the user’s interests, yet it did show ads for rehab centers, including some for the Watershed rehab services company. Much along the same line, ads for mobility devices and machines were shown to user accounts who had visited disability related sites. This time, though, the subject appeared in their interests.
The study shows an interesting perspective on online advertising, in that it showcases fundamental flaws in the way ads are designed and targeted. Other studies looked at this issue, yet this one is the first that actually is statistically relevant.
Image source: guim.co.uk