Google sexism?

I discovered some Google search results that smack of sexism.

1. Go to Google.

2. Search for one of the following:

  • she discovered
  • she created
  • she built
  • she voted
  • she nominated
  • she engineered
  • she operated
  • she paid
  • she invented

Before delivering the results, Google will reply, “Did you mean he …..?

3. Now repeat the search using “he discovered” or one of the other above phrases.

4. Note that you are not asked if you meant “she”.

What’s with that? If you search for something typically “female”, you don’t have the same problem. “she nursed”, “she wrote”, “she bought”…none of those prompts you for “he”.

I suspect the "sexism" stems from the still popular use of "he" as a supposedly gender neutral pronoun. Google is probably just trying to widen your search results. But it does seem a little weird. Given that it’s easy to type "he" when you actually meant to search for "she", you’d think Google would also prompt for "she" when you search for "he". But, nope.


3 thoughts on “Google sexism?”

  1. I don’t imagine Google’s doing this intentionally. They have probably just done a frequency analysis of how often each term appears across the web, and are using that to provide hints, the same way they do for mis-spellings.

  2. Exactly. “He” is frequently used as a gender neutral pronoun. And there are 39 million results for “he discovered” as opposed to 17 million for “she discovered”. It’s not so much that Google is sexist as it is that there are far more online documents that use “he” with some of the verbs I noted.

  3. Good point-my first visit to your journal- the observation noted is important -We all need to become more conscious of all pervasive sexism- I’m sure google didn’t mean it – but lets hope that this is changed and slowly sexism in our communications will be eradicated or lest that be impossible -at least minimized
    Thank you

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