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This Chrome Extension Brings Gender Balance To Google Image Search

In Google’s eyes, men and engineers and women are nurses.

Search for “engineer” in Google’s image search, and you’ll see a screen mostly full of men in hard hats. Search for “nurse” and the results are women.

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A simple Chrome extension changes the results: if you search for a profession that has a gender imbalance, the Re-Search extension runs a modified search, and shows you a new window with images of the under-represented sex.

Semcon, the Sweden-based product development firm that developed the open-source extension, needs to solve a gender imbalance problem of its own; it wants to hire an equal number of women, but not enough women are choosing the field. Part of that, they argue, is because girls still don’t see enough examples of female engineers.

As they write on their website:

With the internet, many of us hoped we would get access to a more diverse set of images of different professions, and there is no question that the non-stereotypical images are out there. The problem is that they don’t show up in the search results, unless you search for them specifically.

If we can present images of professions in a more balanced way to begin with, maybe we can take a first step towards better role models, images and balanced representation.

Download the free extension here.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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