Google’s Doodles have received criticism for under-representing women, especially those who are Asian or Latina. The aim of Doodles is to “bring smiles to the faces of Google users around the world”. Google’s #Sochi Doodle show global support for the LGBT community. How have Google Doodles elevated awareness of sexism at a global level?

According to Google’s About Doodles webpage, “Doodles are the fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists.”

On this same page, Google goes on to explain the aim of Doodles as being partly to “bring smiles to the faces of Google users around the world” and that the selection process for Doodles involves choosing ones that “reflect Google’s personality and love for innovation”.

Doodles started appearing on Google’s homepage on a regular basis around 2010, the first being in celebration of Claude Monet (you can only be honored with a Doodle posthumously).

Did Google Just Get Political?

For an arbitrary side-project of a company that has such forward-thinking and philanthropic intentions and values, it sure has caused a ruckus when it comes to the delicate subject that is sexism.

How, you might ask, could illustrations intended “to enliven the Google homepage” possibly become embroiled in any controversy concerning sexism?

The answer lies in various charts and graphs compiled by science educator Ann M Martin (see her Speaking Up blog for further reading), some of which you can see below.

Google Doodles by Gender

Google Doodles by Gender

The chart shows the number of men and women honored with Google Doodles in 2013 (this includes all global Doodles that honor an individual’s birthday – for those unacquainted with Google Doodles, some Doodles only appear in certain parts of the world).

The Male/Female Divide

It shows that [tweetability]for the year 2013, Google Doodles honored 119 men and 36 women.[/tweetability] That means that the total number of female honorees is less than 25% of the overall bulk of recipients.

A of you are probably thinking this is to be expected for we already know the history books are full of white males. But when you’re Google and people are seeing your homepage every day, people are going to be very sensitive about how you address this truth. Doodles allegedly aim to make the user smile; they were never intended to stir up trouble and offend.

Politics By Ommission

Yet anything that’s going to be seen by millions of people every day has got to be red-hot when it comes to sensitivity. [tweetability]There have been over 1000 Doodles and yet not one has featured a single Asian, Latina, or indigenous woman as of March 2014.[/tweetability]

See this chart, courtesy of SPARK movement:

Google Doodles by race and gender

Google Doodles by race and gender

According to Spark Movement, Google honored 445 individuals on its homepages throughout the world between 2010-2013. 275 of these were white men, 82 were “men of color”, 54 were white women and a meagre 19 were “women of color”.

However, Google, a company that prides itself on innovation has begun to readdress the imbalance of men to women and the under-representation of black and indigenous people on its Doodles.

If its recent actions are anything to go by, Google appears to have taken note of the controversy surrounding its choice in Doodles and dramatically so.

How Google’s Stepping Up To The Challenge

[tweetability]In January 2014, around half of all Doodles featured on US Google homepages honoured women[/tweetability] – a significant increase when compared to the ratio of women to men for the year 2013.

Besides this, about half of the 19 “women of color” honoured between 2010-2013, as illustrated in the chart provided by SPARK movement, appeared on Google homepages in 2013 which indicates that Google has started to address the lack of acknowledgement towards certain ethnic groups when choosing subjects for Doodles. 2013 also marked the first year a black woman was featured globally as the subject of a Doodle (to clarify, Rosa Parks was featured in 2010, but that was only in the United States).

As Google states itself on the aforementioned “About Doodles” webpage, “The ideas for the doodles come from numerous sources including Googlers and Google users. The doodle selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google’s personality and love for innovation.”

It looks as though Google has begun to pay attention to what its users want and reflect their diverse user base in their doodles.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer digital strategy services, including website branding, style guides, persona development, and audience segmentation. We’re a partner in making content work for your business. Learn more about digital strategy here.