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Study: Women Less Likely To Be Shown Ads For High-paid Jobs On Google 233

An anonymous reader writes: A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has found that women seeking jobs are less likely to be shown ads on Google for high-paying jobs than men. The researchers created more than 17,000 fake profiles, which were shown roughly 600,000 ads on career-finding websites (abstract). All of the profiles shared the same browsing behavior. "One experiment showed that Google displayed adverts for a career coaching service for '$200k+' executive jobs 1,852 times to the male group and only 318 times to the female group." The article notes, "Google allows users to opt out of behavioral advertising and provides a system to see why users were shown ads and to customize their ad settings. But the study suggests that there is a transparency and overt discrimination issue in the wider advertising landscape."
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Study: Women Less Likely To Be Shown Ads For High-paid Jobs On Google

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  • by Pubstar ( 2525396 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @09:56AM (#50068673)
    *Grabs Popcorn* It seems Feminist Friday and SJW Saturday came early this week.
  • Algorithm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bondsbw ( 888959 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @09:57AM (#50068687)

    Perhaps women are 6 times less likely to click an ad for $200k+ executive jobs. If the algorithm prioritizes ads based on past behavior of other persons, given all identifiable traits of each person, then this is very well to be expected.

    And would go to show that stereotyping is not always evil, but sometimes it comes from innocently putting together past information to be more efficient today.

    • Re:Algorithm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! ( 2743031 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:07AM (#50068769)

      Exactly, great point. Why would someone who is intelligent click on such an ad? I don't make $200k+, but I always assumed that clicking that link is a path to a Nigerian Prince promising that salary.

      Why does Carnegie Mellon imply that women should be shown stupider ads than the present algorithm identifies?

    • Re:Algorithm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phayes ( 202222 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:11AM (#50068797) Homepage

      Probably even simpler: There are more ads specifically targeting women (shoes, makeup, etc) than for men making their ad pool larger and thus automatically diminishing the opportunity for ads for of high paying google to be shown.

      But of course that won't stop someone with a spreadsheet & a mission from finding a correlation & implying a sinister causation.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Or perhaps advertisers look at the revenue of those ads and act accordingly. Hence why Barbie is directed at girls and cartoys are directed at boys. Because that makes the most money.

        There are whole sections of stores dedicated to girls and seperate ones to boys. There are complete stores dedicated to one or another. Beer advertisement is mainly directed to boys. Coca-Cola has different products directed at boys and girls. 5subtle, but still.)

        There are insurance companies that have different rates for diffe

      • Re:Algorithm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:30AM (#50068907)

        But of course that won't stop someone with a spreadsheet & a mission from finding a correlation & implying a sinister causation.

        This is what happens when you let sociology/psychology students think they're engaged in "science." I don't think people attracted to social fields have the capability to investigate and analyze things with dispassionate rationality.

      • Probably even simpler: There are more ads specifically targeting women (shoes, makeup, etc) than for men making their ad pool larger and thus automatically diminishing the opportunity for ads for of high paying google to be shown.

        Interesting argument. Do you have any proof that it is true?

        When it comes to gender issues in tech the geek also seems to have a mission, but sterotypes rule, facts and analysis are optional.

      • I don't think anyone is implying a sinister causation. The problem is these tools only comprehend data aggregates and not human beings, and that can be both self-reinforcing and self-limiting. Whether it's Facebook, Google, news sites or whatever, we live in an increasingly strict reality bubble where individuals are simply not exposed to things they're not expected to have an interest in. As we pass more and more control over to automated filtering tools, the more this will be a problem and the less well i
        • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

          That's to be expected if the point is to maximize ad clicks.

          The purpose of Google's advertisement system is not to better mankind in some way, it's to make money.

      • "But of course that won't stop someone with a spreadsheet & a mission from finding a correlation & implying a sinister causation."

        You didn't even need a spreadsheet.

    • If I had to see to the overall health and well being of my family, I would not click on a link for a $200K+ job either. I know that such jobs are not conducive to work/life balance and that I will have to depend on my spouse to provide that care.

      Is the algorithm broken, or is it highlighting an existing preference? My understanding of our culture suggests the algorithm is doing exactly what it was written to do: serve ads to people based on their likelihood of wanting to click them. Men are still expected t

    • by MacDork ( 560499 )

      However it happened, the end effect is the same. First Google called black people gorillas, [twitter.com] now they discriminate against women.

      What is it going to take before you no longer feel compelled to make excuses for them? Do they have to go skynet on everyone before you think that *maybe* they should be a little more careful with their AI algorithms? Or is it simpler than that? Maybe they just have to negatively impact a few white male programmers for you to get upset about it.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

      And would go to show that stereotyping is not always evil, but sometimes it comes from innocently putting together past information to be more efficient today.

      The issue is applying the stereotypes to individuals, rather than how well they fit a population.

      If a woman loses out on an employment opportunity because the social norm is for women to place family before work, that fits into the categories of prejudice and discrimination. It fails to take the individual into account, which is a problem since any given woman may be more than happy to place a higher priority on her career. If a woman loses out on an employment opportunity because she openly admits that h

      • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

        The issue is applying the stereotypes to individuals, rather than how well they fit a population.

        The study only specified gender in the original profiles. How can we expect Google to take individuality into account when the input data didn't?

        If Google's algorithms ignored gender and other such demographic data, then it would be ignoring the individual even more than if it takes that information into account. The fact that it doesn't ignore that data leads us to conclude that it is attempting to factor in individual preferences where possible.

        It could be better, no doubt, but to be perfect it would ne

        • by MacTO ( 1161105 )

          Ignoring advertising in general, and looking at the advertising of jobs in particular, it is best to avoid some demographic data like the plague. That doesn't mean that you have to avoid demographic data in general. It doesn't mean that you have to avoid demographic data that may skew towards one gender, because there is precious little that you can do about preexisting social biases.

          To give you examples of what I mean: advertising employment based upon gender or to groups that are based upon gender is di

          • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

            I fail to see how ads are locking anyone out.

            It's a bit like not eating until you see an ad for food. That's ridiculous, obviously if you want food, you look for food.

            If you want a job, search for the job.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Applying stereotypes to individuals is pretty much the definition of targeted advertising.

  • "Advertisement"? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mrex ( 25183 )

    Is this an article or an advertisement? The icon says "Ad", but it's listed as submitted by an "anonymous reader" and gives the appearance of being a news article.

    Is Slashdot trying to destroy itself?

  • Newest Study: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mocko ( 3768035 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:03AM (#50068735)
    Women Less Likely To Be Shown Ads For Shitty Jobs On Google
    In an obvious policy of sexism, female's browsers were less likely to be sent openings or training for plumbing, roofing and landscape services.

    No explanation was given by press time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Do roofers and landscapers really make $200k+ in the US? Sounds like a great job, landscaping stuff for $200k/year.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:03AM (#50068739) Journal

    Google isn't really "choosing" who gets served ads as much as advertisers do. They ask for specific demographics, and the Google engine matches users to those demographics. If you want to serve your ads to males between 35 and 50 with an estimated gross income above $150k. It's not detailed *how* they made sure the browsing was identical.

    I'd be curious what the results would be if you set up the profiles and surfed, but had only female subjects running "male" profiles and visa versa.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Jesus Christ reading the fucking article....the behavior was exactly the same between male and female profiles the only difference was gender. It can't get simpler than that. Yet somehow people don't read the article or worse, can't read.
      • by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:47AM (#50069081) Homepage

        His point still stands.

        Advertisers are buying ad impressions for certain demographics. The advertisers are buying more ads for these jobs that target males.

        It isn't Google doing this - they're just offering the advertising tools. It's the purchasers of the ads that are causing this to happen.

        This is not complex.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Advertisers are buying ad impressions for certain demographics. The advertisers are buying more ads for these jobs that target males.

          Yes, that's the entire point of FTA and the study, thanks for repeating it. Neither TFA nor the study is blaming Google for this.

          The issue is that the current gender imbalance appears to be creating a feedback loop that re-enforces it.

        • His point still stands.

          Advertisers are buying ad impressions for certain demographics. The advertisers are buying more ads for these jobs that target males.

          It isn't Google doing this - they're just offering the advertising tools. It's the purchasers of the ads that are causing this to happen.

          This is not complex.

          OTOH, Google is allowing advertisers to target males in their employment ads, which is illegal under the Civil Rights Act. It's no different than if someone said "I want you to show this employment ads, but only to whites." If you say, "sure, no problem," then you're culpable too.

          • Actually, they're not. The ads which were shown were for executive coaching services, not actual job advertisements. Other examples, which were not noted explicitly in the article, were identified as "not statistically significant."

      • You should really reread the post of the person you're responding to. Let me put it in a simple way: the coaching schools explicitly paid more to show their ads when is a male on the other end. That or others (non-coaching service) paid more to show their advertisements when it's a female on the other end.
      • It seems insidious when Google is appearing to favor men over women for high priced jobs, so lets look at a different advertiser - Me.

        A few years ago I was the music director for an all male chorus in a neighboring town. Every year we have a "guest night" where we invite people to come and join us, sing a couple a songs, and hope to get new men to audition and join our group. Advertising dollars are tight, so rather than ask Facebook to show our ad to everyone within 25 miles of our rehearsal spot, we asked

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The profiles they used were identical in all cases. They apparently tried using the privacy features to block some tracking, but then as soon as they set their gender to female in their account profile the disparity kicked in.

      Most likely it is advertisers requesting more men get their ads. It's a problem because they see a male dominated industry and figure that they should advertise to their biggest audience first (best use of limited resources), but in doing so further reduce the probability of women ente

      • This assumes that the people posting the ad are fully in control of the demographics they want to target. We don't know if the people that posted or created the ad specifically dictates in the terms something like "out of the 100000 times this ad pops up, make sure that 80000 are specifically targeted to men". That's the (incorrect?) assumption being made here I think. While this might seem understandable for certain types of targeted ads (don't display feminine hygiene products to men) - i seriously dou
  • The (picture/job) algorithms disagree. I hate to see what crime algorithms come up with.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:08AM (#50068777) Homepage
    The article said browsing behavior was identical, but I doubt google was magically detecting women.

    At some point the women told Google their gender. Why? What moron thinks Google needs to know their gender?

    But once you give Google (or Facebook, or Yahoo, or basically anyone...) information like gender, then I guarantee you they will correlate it with other people.

    What this means is that somewhere in Google's algorithm they have found that people that claim to be women (this is the internet after all), are less likely to click on ads for high paying jobs.

    So Google wisely decides to show them less such ads.

    Do not blame Google for basing their ads on what they know about you and ALSO what they know about people like you.

    Do blame yourself for telling Google that much about you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      What this means is that somewhere in Google's algorithm they have found that people that claim to be women (this is the internet after all), are less likely to click on ads for high paying jobs.

      It's a chicken and egg situation. Do they advertise to women less because fewer women click ads for high paying jobs, or do fewer women click ads for high paying jobs because they advertise them to women less?

      It's a feedback loop, and other studies suggest that such loops are usually not a good thing.

      • by Jiro ( 131519 )

        Fewer women click ads for such jobs for reasons unrelated to the prevalence of such ads. Women are much less inclined to work long hours for more pay in preference to being with their family. $200K jobs are likely to be the type of job which requires prioritizing work over everything else, so women won't click on such ads.

      • by Thiez ( 1281866 )
        > It's a chicken and egg situation. Do they advertise to women less because fewer women click ads for high paying jobs, or do fewer women click ads for high paying jobs because they advertise them to women less? Let's assume google is not completely retarded, surely they measure the effectiveness of an add by looking at how often it was clicked compared to how often the add was shown (click-through rate). Or do you really believe they only count the absolute numbers?
  • Screwing employers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday July 08, 2015 @10:11AM (#50068791) Homepage

    Employers typically pay for the number of profiles on a site, either directly or indirectly.
    CMU is screwing with employers by creating 17k fake profiles.

  • I can't recall ever seeing google post a job ad on my browser. I do notice Dice ads on the side of slashdot from time to time, but I don't pay any attention to them because they are ads and nobody pays attention to ads on the internet.
    • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

      Yea, I was curious about this too. I've seen the block of sponsored links when I'm searching for stuff but don't recall ever seeing an ad for a job.

      [John]

  • I am not chauvinist, however I see this as business as usual. All google ad's work of off statistical engines. If statistically there are fewer women in executive positions then ad's towards those positions and services should statistically match. I'm sure marketers see this story as simply business. That said it does not help equality.

  • We all know how well Amazon and Netflix predict what you would like to watch/read/buy based on past behavior. I am sure they are working on algorithms that predict what you would buy and how much you would be willing to pay. Pretty soon you would see $1.99 for an episode when you log in as A, but it could be $5.99 for B and free for C.

    Right now more people are willing to pay more to Google show advertizements for shoes and lipstick to women than similar masculine products to men. So women see more lipstic

  • That men receive 75% fewer ads for women's fashion and makeup products while searching in Google.

  • I thought it's the advertisers who choose which target user profile their ads should be shown to?

    And can you really blame them for trying to keep their advertising costs low by selecting a target profile as narrow as possible to keep "wasted" views, that have to be paid for, too, as low as possible?

    I don't see Google at fault here.

  • Google probably doesn't care, but those researchers were engaged in click fraud. If I were an advertiser, and I paid for 600,000 ads that only got shown to robots, I would be pissed. That's a lot of money right there.
  • Two issues I see:

    • The advertisers (not Google) may be targeting men
    • There are more advertisements for women-only products (makeup, fashion, etc.). The ad algorithm sees a more specific match for the demographic and displays a woman's ad rather than a generic, anyone ad.
  • I'm being completely serious here, normally when it comes to "gender issues" I try to listen even though the outcome is almost invariably that I'm not a women so I can't possibly understand. But in this particular instance who the hell is the victim here? No one who is qualified for a $200K+ per year job finds it by clicking on banner advertisements, the only impact they have ever had on anyone who doesn't fall into the category of functionally retarded is possibly to remind them to update their LinkedIn pr

    • Do you want to know how the women who is making $200K a year got that kind of salary? The answer is simple: She didn't stop looking until she found it.

      This may be the most sensible thing said in this entire thread.

      You don't get a six-figure job without hustle. Hustle indicates that you were out for that job, you were looking for it, you knew where to find it, and you did your homework to be able to locate the job and then have the capability to do it when you got there.

      The person that earns that kind of money a year wasn't discovered in a drugstore waiting in line to buy a bottle of aspirin. That person positioned themselves so that they could get that

  • Read the actual article and paper, men weren't shown more ads for positions paying $200k+, they were shown more ads for coaching services to help them get jobs paying $200k+. It is more accurate to say that men are more willing to pay money to get help getting jobs paying $200K+, read men are relatively more desperate to get high paying jobs. This matches pretty well with what (if we are even remotely honest) we already know, men are more likely to be judged based on their job. Even Mythbusters was able
  • First... fuck the stupid suggestion that a computer is sexist. I mean... that is the literal implication here. That the COMPUTER is sexist.

    Second, if it is doing this then there are REASONS for it. Computers don't care if you have a vagina or a penis... they don't even know what that means. there's no subroutine checking for dick and then giving dick better jobs.

    Third, once you've figured out the reasons... THAT is the actual story. The story likely will read something like this "people that click on these

  • "career coaching service" ... maybe they have found that men are more likely to pay for these services?

    I remember them from the days of paper want ads - services promising to land you the dream job, if you signed up and paid them a bucket of money

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