Google ads less likely to show high-paying job ads to women

Google’s ads system is less likely to show ads for high-paid jobs to women, a recently published study, based on a series of tests suggests.

The tests were done by a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon. They built an automated testing machine which they called AdFisher – it pretended to be thousands of male and female job seekers. A total of 17,370 fake profiles visited jobseeker sites, and were shown some 600,000 ads.

After the ads were analysed, the conclusion is that ads for high-paying jobs were shown more frequently to men: “In particular, we found that males were shown ads encouraging the seeking of coaching services for high paying jobs more than females.”

“The interesting result was how the ads differed between the groups: during this experiment, Google showed the simulated males ads from a certain career coaching agency that promised large salaries more frequently than the simulated females, a finding suggestive of discrimination. Ours is the first study that provides statistically significant evidence of an instance of discrimination in online advertising when demographic information is supplied via a transparencycontrol mechanism (i.e., the Ad Settings page)”, the study says.

Authors of the study admit that the gender discrimination is difficult to pin to one factor thanks to Google’s complex profiling, as well as thanks to the way advertisers use Google’s ad systems.

A Google spokeswoman said to The Guardian: “Advertisers can choose to target the audience they want to reach, and we have policies that guide the type of interest-based ads that are allowed.”