Google Doodles have become the new honorary postage stamps. Launched in 2001, the illustrations and animations that replace the Google logo to celebrate national holidays and historical birthdays are seen by hundreds of millions of people. While some people see these drawings as a way to “humanize the homepage”–as described by one Google engineer–others are critiquing the doodles for having the reverse effect.
An illustration of acclaimed American writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston graced the Google homepage on her birthday, January 7, this year, a move that was praised by many (and attacked by some.) But what about the other 364 days of the year?
“[From] 2010-2013, Google celebrated 445 individuals on its various homepages throughout the world,” SPARK reported. “[Nineteen] were women of color, 54 were white women, 82 were men of color, and an overwhelming 275 were white men.”
According to SPARK’s findings:
- About half of those 19 women of color appeared in 2013 alone.
- Out of the 24 Global Doodles released in 2013, two featured Black women (marking the first time any woman of color had been in a Global Doodle, ie. Doodles seen by the entire world.)
- There hasn’t been a single Asian, Latina, or indigenous woman featured in a Global Doodle as of February 2014.
- There have already been more women of color in 2014 than there were in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Like a postage stamp, only individuals who have made significant contributions to the world in their lifetimes are considered for the honor. In the case of Gogle Doodles, features can only occur posthumously.
So, in effect, critics believe that by honoring an underwhelming number of women of color, Google is essentially making a highly-publicized statement about the global achievements (or, rather, the lack thereof) of women of color.
Science educator Ann M. Martin, Ph.D. has also been researching, tracking and writing about gender in Google Doodles in her blog Speaking Up. Since launching the blog, Martin has published two open letters to Google
“Google Doodles highlight role models in science, technology, the arts, and the humanities, but a quick look will show you that the people you have chosen to honor do not represent the full spectrum of humanity,” she wrote in the first open letter.
“In particular, you have work to do to make Google Doodles equitable in their representation of women and people of color.”