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

By Melissa Locker

August 10, 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 women in various jobs (baker, call-center worker, CEO), and then calculated the number of women who showed up in Google Image search results for the same roles. While women make up about 28% of chief executives (at least, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), they made up only 11% of the CEOs that show up in a Google Image search, according to AdView. (When we tried the search, at least one of those “CEOs” was Gal Gadot, who is a Wonder Woman, but not a CEO, as far as we know.)

Granted, Google Image search results are not frozen in time (they change based on things such as the news cycle, for instance), but the lack of women CEOs in these results raises important questions about the lack of representation of women leaders in media, and how that relates to their lack of representation in the real world.

The number of women in chief executive roles at major companies actually declined 25% this year, according to Fortune’s 2018 list of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. There were 24 women, down from 32 the year before. Part of the reason there are so few women in those roles is that women are 18% less likely to be promoted to manager than their male peers. Perhaps more women–and men–need to be reminded that women are CEO material, too. And that’s something Google Images could help with by changing the perception of CEOs to include more women in search results.

Reached for comment, a Google spokesperson did not provide an on-the-record statement about the study.