2013 came to an end a little over a month ago, but in that time, the Google team has kept me plenty busy with a series of Doodles honoring women. And that’s an interesting start to a new year, following one in which Google really improved their record on gender representation — but they still have a lot to do. I’m of several minds here: I’m genuinely pleased with the improvement, but well aware that it takes conscious and long-term effort for projects like the Doodles to make lasting change when it comes to gender bias. And I’m also well aware that the strides made in 2013 still fall far short of 50% gender parity, and that 12 years of Doodles was too long to wait to make a commitment to equity. This is a step in the right direction, but the work is not done.
Let’s look at how Doodles dealt with their dismal gender record in 2013, both here in the U.S. and around the world.
(For more information on my methodology and approach to counting male and female individuals honored with a Doodle, check out this post from summer 2012. There is one significant update: this year, there were some Doodles that were shown in most countries except in the United States. Google’s “Finder” service has recently started categorizing some such Doodles as “Global,” adding a complication to my stats — in the past, only Doodles that were truly shown on every Google homepage were listed that way. I’ve tried to carefully keep track, but it’s possible I’ve made a mistake or two! Contact me if you are interested in the dataset that I use to build this site’s gender statistics.)
Click below the fold for the 2013 year in review.
First, let’s look at the gender distribution of all Doodles posted in 2013 — anywhere in the world that Google has a presence.
This year, including all Doodles posted around the world, Google honored 119 men and 36 women, so that women made up about 23% of honorees. That’s a significant increase over last year — when only 12.8% of honorees were women — but it still means that the people Google chooses to honor don’t represent the full spectrum of people who use their service.
Like last year, the Doodles posted in the United States did a bit better in terms of gender parity than the worldwide total:
In the U.S., 20 men were honored — one fewer than last year — but 12 women were included among the honorees, meaning that 37.5% of honored individuals were women. Compared to 2012, when 6 months of the year went by before U.S. users saw a single woman on the Google homepage, that represents a significant improvement.
How do these numbers stack up to the gender distribution of Doodles in the past? As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I maintain a comprehensive record of Google Doodles, and my dataset goes all the way back to include the very first Doodles. In that context, women are getting a lot more attention from the Doodles team.
The chart above shows that only 81 women have ever been honored with a Doodle, and more than half of those have been honored since the start of 2012. 2013 was, by a significant margin, the best year on record.
Here’s the same chart, showing only the Doodles displayed in the U.S. over the same time period:
Since 2001, only 24 women have ever graced Google’s homepage for users in the United States — and 70% of those have been included only in the last two years! As someone who uses Google within the U.S., that means I spent the last year seeing more women being honored than ever before.
Again, I want to place all of this in context: women make up about 50% of the world’s population. Google’s efforts in the last year are to be commended, of course, but they also show that making projects gender inclusive requires just a little bit of effort. The women honored this year were incredible, standout creators and innovators, and around the world, the team has been able to identify household names that they spent the previous 12 years simply ignoring. Looking above, there hasn’t been a single year when the gender distribution of Doodles approached anything like an equitable division.
So that is my call to action for the Doodles team in 2014: more, more, more! Keep up the good work, but don’t start to think that one year of stats slightly over 30% mean that your work is done. This is worth doing, and it is worth doing well.
Speaking Up will be here throughout 2014, keeping track of Doodles. I’m working on a lot of fun ideas for series and posts to highlight even more women, too, so if you have ideas or would like to become a contributor, Tweet me @Annie314159.