Throughout history, women in STEM have contributed massively to build the world as we know it today — from Rosalind Franklin, a chemist whose research helped reveal the components of DNA, to Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. But with a quick search of “greatest scientists of all time,” it’ll take a bit of digging to read about these women.
A new Google Chrome plugin S.H.E. — Search, Human, Equalizer — transforms the way we search by removing bias and putting the spotlight on pivotal women. Current search results reflect cultural stereotypes and human bias, distorting women’s achievements and potential, further perpetuating the societal problem.
So, how does S.H.E. work?
The search engine understands a query, determines the relevance, and then presents results. As a browser extension, S.H.E. operates on the search backend, filtering and repositioning results to yield more accurate representations.
By searching “greatest engineer” on Google, a woman doesn’t appear until the 18th image. But with S.H.E. installed, three female engineers appear in the first 10 images.
Tools like S.H.E. are badly needed. According to Pew Research, only 10 percent of search results for “CEO” show women, despite women making up 28 percent of the occupation. The good thing about the plugin is that it works with all sorts of occupations: from greatest illustrators, famous architects, best journalists, great thinkers, and many more.
But S.H.E. isn’t only battling bias in STEM, it’s going after all of it. For example, when you search for “great hair” or “perfect hair,” the results prioritize white women. In S.H.E.’s explainer video, it shows search engine results for “asiaticas,” the Spanish translation of Asian women. Google’s results bring up pornographic links and imagery but S.H.E.’s algorithm prevents ethnicity from becoming a sexual fetish or invitation.
By capturing cultural stereotypes, S.H.E.’s search engine algorithms give women’s accomplishments the visibility they deserve. You can download the plugin here to explore another perspective of STEM.
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