Are these careers as gendered as people think?

The results of Google Image career searches are often at odds with the statistics when it comes to the relative participation of men and women.

When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, things are changing, though, of course, there’s still a long way to go. A key influence in deciding on a career is a consideration of the job one is qualified for. Beyond a position’s listed requirements there’s often the assumption that the job is geared toward one sex or another.


There are still lots of mechanisms in place that reinforce traditional gender barriers: Google Image searches for certain job titles — “CEO,” for example — make it seem as if women comprise only 11% of CEOs. The reality, according to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), is that it’s more like 36%. Such outdated information may serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy by making women think they can’t compete in fields where others have amply demonstrated that they can. It takes time for such stereotyping to change.

All visualizations in this article are by AdView.

'Professional Perception' presentation

U.K. job-search website AdView analyzed the ONS data for “Employment by Occupation” and developed an interactive tool for assessing the disparity between the gender mix depicted by Google Image searches and the distribution of careers suggested by data. It’s plausible to imagine that the proportion of disparity between what’s presented and what’s real in the U.S. is at least roughly similar.

The focus is on Google because the search giant accounts for 89.7% of U.K. search queries, and thus serves as both influencer and plausible reflector of the culture’s job/gender expectations. Worldwide, Google performs 86.3% of all searching.

Click this image to interact with AdView’s presentation.

To use the interactive tool, click or touch CHOOSE PROFESSION to display different jobs, or view the top five jobs with the most outsized disparity between what Google Images shows and what’s actually the case.

When you select a job, the left of the screen presents two bars that show the gender mix Google suggests in response to a search for the associated job on top and the actual statistics beneath it.

Good jobs, bad jobs, good guess, bad guess

Not all of the jobs shown here are all that desirable. For every CEO, there’s a call-center worker, which is split pretty evenly between men and women.

In addition, Google gets pretty close to reality for many of these jobs. For chefs, by way of example, the search giant gets it exactly right: Images suggest that it’s a 76% male career, and that’s precisely what the stats show.

Where Google fails, in addition to CEOs, and the rest of the top five—pilots, bakers, solicitors (lawyers in the U.S.), and farmers—is with:

  • gardeners and pharmacists (15% disparity for each)
  • journalists (14% off)
  • estate agents, police officers, and teachers (13%)
  • hairdressers (12%)
  • librarians (11%).

Surprises in the data

Regardless of the variance between Google Images and the facts, there’s some information here that’s just plain interesting, and maybe surprising.

Careers flying airplanes are the job with the greatest difference between what Google Images depicts and what’s the actual case, and in a way that’s disappointing for those looking for equal representation. While Google suggests that 32% of pilots are women, it’s really only 5%.

Another career that’s still overwhelmingly, and disappointingly, a boys club is programming. Google itself recently reported an anemic improvement in the percentage of women it employs, 0.3%.

On the other hand, journalism is almost even, which is encouraging not just for women, but for the chance that news coverage can become more accurate, comprehensive, and balanced with a wider array of viewpoints represented.

Also, while Google Images makes it seem like only 1% of soldiers are women, the real number is 10%

Who knew nearly a third of librarians are men?

Changing minds, changing careers

An important component of empowering women to choose whatever career they want is changing our expectations. Google Image search results are likely more a reflection of the pictures that get posted than any selection bias on Google’s part. As such, it can serve as an intriguing barometer of widespread societal opinion. As more women are in these jobs, more pictures will no doubt be posted and Google Image searches will portray more realistic populations.

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Best case: redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case

Image: SRF
Strange Maps
  • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended
  • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse
  • A proposed land swap could create peace - or reignite the conflict

The death of Old Yugoslavia

Image: public domain

United Yugoslavia on a CIA map from 1990.

Wars are harder to finish than to start. Take for instance the Yugoslav Wars, which raged through most of the 1990s.

The first shot was fired at 2.30 pm on June 27th, 1991, when an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army took aim at Slovenian separatists. When the YPA retreated on July 7th, Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia's republics to have won its independence.

After the wars

Image: Ijanderson977, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Map of former Yugoslavia in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The geopolitical situation remains the same today.

The Ten-Day War cost less than 100 casualties. The other wars – in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo (1) – lasted much longer and were a lot bloodier. By early 1999, when NATO had forced Serbia to concede defeat in Kosovo, close to 140,000 people had been killed and four million civilians displaced.

So when was the last shot fired? Perhaps it never was: it's debatable whether the Yugoslav Wars are actually over. That's because Kosovo is a special case. Although inhabited by an overwhelming ethnic-Albanian majority, Kosovo is of extreme historical and symbolic significance for Serbians. More importantly, from a legalistic point of view: Kosovo was never a separate republic within Yugoslavia but rather a (nominally) autonomous province within Serbia.

Kosovo divides the world

Image: public domain

In red: states that have recognised the independence of Kosovo (most EU member states – with the notable exceptions of Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia; and the U.S., Japan, Turkey and Egypt, among many others). In blue: states that continue to recognise Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo (most notably Russia and China, but also other major countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Iran).

The government of Serbia has made its peace and established diplomatic relations with all other former Yugoslav countries, but not with Kosovo. In Serbian eyes, Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 was a unilateral and therefore legally invalid change of state borders. Belgrade officially still considers Kosovo a 'renegade province', and it has a lot of international support for that position (2). Not just from its historical protector Russia, but also from other states that face separatist movements (e.g. Spain and India).

Despite their current conflict, Kosovo and Serbia have the same long-term objective: membership of the European Union. Ironically, that wish could lead to Yugoslav reunification some years down the road – within the EU. Slovenia and Croatia have already joined, and all other ex-Yugoslav states would like to follow their example. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already submitted an official application. The EU considers Bosnia and Kosovo 'potential candidates'.

Kosovo is the main stumbling block on Serbia's road to EU membership. Even after the end of hostilities, skirmishes continued between the ethnically Albanian majority and the ethnically Serbian minority within Kosovo, and vice versa in Serbian territories directly adjacent. Tensions are dormant at best. A renewed outbreak of armed conflict is not unthinkable.

Land for peace?

Image: BBC

Mitrovica isn't the only area majority-Serb area in Kosovo, but the others are enclaved and fear being abandoned in a land swap.

In fact, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated spectacularly in the past few months. At the end of November, Kosovo was refused membership of Interpol, mainly on the insistence of Serbia. In retaliation, Kosovo imposed a 100% tariff on all imports from Serbia. After which Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic refused to exclude her country's "option" to intervene militarily in Kosovo. Upon which Kosovo's government decided to start setting up its own army – despite its prohibition to do so as one of the conditions of its continued NATO-protected independence.

The protracted death of Yugoslavia will be over only when this simmering conflict is finally resolved. The best way to do that, politicians on both sides have suggested, is for the borders reflect the ethnic makeup of the frontier between Kosovo and Serbia.

The biggest and most obvious pieces of the puzzle are the Serbian-majority district of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, and the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley, in southwestern Serbia. That land swap was suggested previous summer by no less than Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, presidents of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Best-case scenario: that would eliminate the main obstacle to mutual recognition, joint EU membership and future prosperity.

If others can do it...

Image: Ruland Kolen

Belgium and the Netherlands recently adjusted out their common border to conform to the straightened Meuse River.

Sceptics - and more than a few locals - warn that there also is a worst-case scenario: the swap could rekindle animosities and restart the war. A deal along those lines would almost certainly exclude six Serbian-majority municipalities enclaved deep within Kosovo. While Serbian Mitrovica, which borders Serbia proper, is home to some 40,000 inhabitants, those enclaves represent a further 80,000 ethnic Serbs – who fear being totally abandoned in a land swap, and eventually forced out of their homes.

Western powers, which sponsored Kosovo's independence, are divided over the plan. U.S. officials back the idea, as do some within the EU. But the Germans are against – they are concerned about the plan's potential to fire up regional tensions rather than eliminate them.

Borders are the Holy Grail of modern nationhood. Countries consider their borders inviolate and unchanging. Nevertheless, land swaps are not unheard of. Quite recently, Belgium and the Netherlands exchanged territories so their joint border would again match up with the straightened course of the River Meuse (3). But those bits of land were tiny and uninhabited. And as the past has amply shown, borders pack a lot more baggage in the Balkans.

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