Lilian Min
April 13, 2015 6:00 am

We collectively cheered a while back when Lauren Conrad was asked her “favorite position” and replied, “CEO.” We also (daily) continue to celebrate the many, many women who are leaders in their fields (and we practice what we preach: Just look at our masthead). And while there are still only 24 female CEOs out of all the companies on the Fortune 500 list (a historic high, despite comprising only 4.8% of the group), 27% of all CEOs in the U.S. are women — not an equal number, but one that gives hope for equality. Well, even with this growing number of female business leaders, do you know who is the first female to come up when you Google image search “CEO”? It’s Barbie.

According to a new University of Washington study, there’s a disparity between how search engines visually represent certain occupations versus actual representation in the work force. Which yeah, isn’t great. To test the study, The Verge’s T.C. Sottek did a Google image search on “CEO,” using Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode so as not to bias search results. The results: Rows and rows of mostly white men proudly staking the business world’s top position as their own.

In the bottom right corner over there? The first woman to appear as a result? CEO Barbie.

Basically, there’s not one real woman for the first 50+ Google image search results for CEO — and, to make things even more ridiculous, the CEO Barbie image is from a 2005 Onion article. The headline for that article is also way too on the nose: “CEO Barbie Criticized For Promoting Unrealistic Career Images.”

Lest you think this is a Google-only problem, both Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo image searches reveal similar outcomes, all but erasing the reality of powerful women in business:

This is a double standard we’ve become to accustomed to, and it must change. Searches like this are just another subtle little reminder that gender stereotypes are still hanging on, way too loud and way too proud. With over 40% of Americans admitting that there’s a double standard when it comes to judging men and women for high-level leadership roles, we clearly have a long way to go. Subtle sexism like this hurts, and Googling CEO shouldn’t be a who’s who of white men in America. There are a lot of lady bosses out there making waves, and they’re fighting stereotypes to do it. We should at the very least give them the benefit of visibility.

(Images via here and here.)

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