Incident 18: Gender Biases of Google Image Search

Description: Google Image returns results that under-represent women in leadership roles, notably with the first photo of a female "CEO" being a Barbie doll after 11 rows of male CEOs.


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Alleged: Google developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Women.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Sean McGregor

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

Reports show Google Image produces results that under-represent women in leadership roles. When searching "CEO" in Google Images, approximately 11% of results feature women while around 28% of CEO's in the United States were women when this complaint was raised. Other examples include the search under "cop" returning results where the first woman featured is wearing a "sexy Halloween costume". Another report showed that when searching "CEO" the first woman to appear was a version of Barbie doll, and that didn't appear until the 12th row of results.

Short Description

Google Image returns results that under-represent women in leadership roles, notably with the first photo of a female "CEO" being a Barbie doll after 11 rows of male CEOs.



Harm Distribution Basis


Harm Type

Harm to social or political systems

AI System Description

Google Image search that allows a search based on a word or phrase to produce photos deemed relevant to that search phrase

System Developer


Sector of Deployment

Information and communication

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition

AI Techniques

Google Image, image processing

AI Applications

image suggestion, image processing, image content processing



Named Entities


Technology Purveyor


Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss

Harm caused



Lives Lost


Data Inputs

open source internet, user requests, user searches

CSETv1 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Harm Distribution Basis


Sector of Deployment

information and communication

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Who’s a CEO? Google image results can shift gender biases

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Try this: Google image "CEO." Notice anything? The first female Google image search result for "CEO" appears TWELVE rows down—and it's Barbie.

A recent study conducted at the University of Washington sought to examine how well female repres…

Google Image search for CEO has Barbie as first female result · 2015

Search the term "CEO" in Google Images and the first picture of woman you get is a picture of Barbie in a suit.

This "gender bias" has become apparent after a paper was published showing that many image searches for specific occupations fav…

The Hidden Gender Bias In Google Image Search · 2015

Just when you thought biases were a completely human construct, more evidence suggests that both algorithms and interfaces could be biased, too.


The latest example of this is from a study conducted by researchers from Universi…

Google’s algorithm shows prestigious job ads to men, but not to women. Here’s why that should worry you. · 2015

Fresh off the revelation that Google image searches for “CEO” only turn up pictures of white men, there’s new evidence that algorithmic bias is, alas, at it again. In a paper published in April, a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon Un…

Why is it still so hard to find women CEOs on Google Images? · 2018

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Marie Wilson of the White House Project said back in 2010. According to a new study, Google Images may not be helping to improve the situation.

AdView analyzed employment data to determine the number of wo…


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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