According To Google, Barbie Is The Most Famous Female CEO – & That's Disturbing

On the heels of the Ellen Pao discrimination case in Silicon Valley, the issue of professional gender equality is having a serious moment in the spotlight. And, even as we continue to contend with problems like the wage gap and the lack of women in tech, there's no doubt that great strides have been made over the last 50 years toward establishing a more equitable workplace culture for women. We may not be there yet — far from it — but we're well on our way. Or, so we thought.      

The Week
reports that if you run a Google image search for the term "CEO," the first result for a woman is none other than Barbie — or rather, CEO Barbie. And, you'll still have to scroll through several rows of (primarily white) men before you even get to her. (In the screenshot below, she's in the bottom row, third from the right.) To make matters worse, CEO Barbie isn't even a real product. According to the Verge, the image is from a 2005 article that appeared in The Onion. Not exactly what our foremothers and champions of the Women's Lib movement might have hoped for.

So, our sincerest apologies, Marissa Mayer, but running Yahoo is just small potatoes. Better luck next time, Mary Barra — we're sure you tried your best, but it seems that being the first female CEO of an American auto manufacturer isn't really that big of a deal. And, Martine Rothblatt, just because you're the highest paid female executive in the U.S. doesn't mean you can contend with Barbie. 
Yes, Google search results are dictated by complex algorithms, and surely the company isn't knowingly trying to assert that Barbie is more important than the real-life women who are changing the landscape of the global workforce every day. Does that make it any less disturbing? No.

I played with Barbies all the time as a young girl. But, it was my mother — a former secretary who put herself through law school and became a New York State Supreme Court judge, fighting against sexism her entire career — who taught me that women can do or be anything, including CEOs. Despite what Google's bots may say, real, inspiring women are all around us, and they're running major corporations (and households, and governments, and schools, and more...) all over the world. No search engine results can ever undermine that. 
Advertisement
Photo: Courtesy of Google Images.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Sheryl Sandberg as CEO of Facebook; she is COO, not CEO. We have updated the text accordingly. 
Advertisement