Today, as I went to Google something, I was met with the Google Doodle below. It honours Emmy Noether who, I learned with one click, “was an influential German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.”
So like millions of others today, I learned about another great white, European contribution to modern Western society. More broadly, I had the idea that white, Europeans are accomplished and valuable, reinforced.
This got me thinking about the digital divide and how few Doodles, if any, I’ve ever seen about non-white folks.
To check my assumption, I typed a query under Ms. Noether and found I wasn’t the only one thinking about this.
The team analysed Google Doodles from 2010-2013, and found that Google celebrated 445 individuals on its various homepages throughout the world. Nine were women of color, 54 were white women, 82 were men of color, and 275 were white men.
It called for Google to include all races and genders in its Doodles, “demanding that Google make a concerted effort to change such a blatant imbalance.”
“Google Doodles may seem lighthearted, especially when accompanied by quirky games and animation, but in reality they have emerged as a new manifestation of who we value as a society, a sign of who “matters.” Just like statues, stamps, and national holidays, you know that if someone is featured on Google’s homepage, they’ve done something important.”
Now, although I like Spark’s goal, I have a different reason to offer Google why they should take action: because the world needs all the diversity it can get to deal with the challenges facing it. We need people to think broadly about solutions to today’s complex problems. However, if Google reinforces the idea that only people who look like Emmy Noether and Albert Einstein are the sources of valuable insights, they are limiting the abilities of people, including their own employees, to think out of the white box.