Sunday, April 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Google RE: Doodle Honorees

The following letter and list will be emailed to the Google Doodle team. Please consider sending your own. 


Dear Google,

I want to start off by saying my name is Laura and I’m a fan. I have been using Google products for years. Blogger, Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Picassa, Pages, Reader, Checkout, and of course Search. I have always been pleased with your software and your focus on making it free to all users.

I know that Google is a very forward-thinking company. Google’s unique office culture shows that you value creativity and innovation and seek to foster that in your employees. I applaud you for providing same-sex partner benefits to your employees. Your business philosophy includes things like "focusing on the user" and "doing business without being evil." You are making strides to lower your environmental impact with your green standards on office buildings and data centers. Google’s technology improves the world with your work in education, health and other projects, like the Flu Trends software. Google’s influence is measured on a global scale.

With so many big projects, it is easy to forget the small ways a company like Google can make a difference.

Since 1998, Google Doodle has livened up the Google homepage with colorful logos that celebrate all aspects of human experience and culture; holidays, seasons, events, discoveries have all happily influenced the Google Search experience. On November 14, 2011, Google honored the first “notable” person by featuring a Claude Monet inspired logo. Since then, Google has created Doodles that honor individuals from all disciplines such as Albert Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Charles, Jules Verne and John Lennon. These Doodles made me happy!

This past Thursday, you honored silent film actor Charlie Chaplin with short film. That Doodle was great, but it made me angry. Let me explain.

Last July, I found this article on Feministe, accusing Google of sexism, demonstrating how you have honored far fewer women than men. This made me angry. I emailed the article to a friend of mine who worked at Google. I trusted that such a forward-thinking company would take the issue seriously.

The reason the film made me angry is because with all the resources you spent to honor Mr. Chaplin, why had I not seen more Doodles honoring women? I was outraged and I complained to my Googler friend. He recommended that I blog about it, but that I back up my passion with numbers.

When I searched through years of Doodles and counted, Google has honored 160 “notable” people. Only 16 of those people were women.


I analyzed further, focusing on Global and US Doodles. There were 49 notable men and 3 notable women.

Really? Only THREE? That’s not even 6% of all US and Global Doodles.

This pattern simply can’t continue.

Let me be clear: I am not accusing Google of intentionally excluding women. I don’t think the Doodle team is sitting around thinking of all the women they won’t honor.

However, I do think that the team of people deciding who is “notable” enough to get a Doodle is biased. Probably because the world is biased. Women in America make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The causes of this issue are complex.

Google has other biases too. The team has honored a lot of visual artists (16/52 US & Global). This makes sense. Artists are creative, innovative, plus they make great Doodles. You also recognize many scientists and inventors (16/52) for their innovations. As a creative technology company, these biases are in line with your company's values and the purpose of having a Google Doodle.

Let me be clear again: I am accusing you of being negligent. Since the Feministe article came out, Google has honored 22 men and 1 woman.

Allow me to repeat something: it is sometimes easy to forget the small ways a company like Google can make a difference.

Here is how you can make a difference, Google. Honor more women on your homepage. It's really that simple. I can even help you with some suggestions I’ve made, based on criteria I developed after seeing the kinds of people you’ve previously honored. Google Doodle Honorees must:

1. Demonstrate “innovation and creativity.” Your website states that you “select doodles that show creativity and innovation.”
2. Not be political figures or associated with a political issue. Doodles also avoid political figures or people associated with a political issue, unless they have fought for civil and social justice, like JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
3. Be deceased. Almost all the people Google Doodle features are deceased (the only exception I found was Queen Elizabeth’s Doodle when she visited the London offices. Because of your one exception, I made one on my list too: Jane Goodall, because she's really freakin' awesome).

With these requirements in mind, please consider my list of suggestions for notable women. I have listed the names below, but I also created a detailed list with their birthdays and professions. I tried to reach beyond my own biases as a white, American, poet (thought you’ll still find quite a few writers on this list). This is by no means exhaustive, but it is diverse. Though it could be improved by adding more accomplished women from countries other than my own.

I welcome people reading this letter to post more suggestions in the comments. I will continue to add names to my spreadsheet. You can also consider emailing the Doodle Team yourself with suggestions.

This list was not easy to create. The information of the world is against us. Women’s accomplishments have been overlooked throughout history. It is my hope that Google will shine light on the accomplishments of ALL creative and innovative people, including women.

Most Sincerely,


Doodle-Worthy Women

Ada Lovelace
Alice Paul
Amelia Earhart
Anne Frank
Anne Sullivan
Audrey Hepburn
Bette Davis
Billie Holiday
Coretta Scott King
Dorothy Height
Eartha Kitt
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Ella Fitzgerald
Emily Dickinson
Eva Peron
Gabriela Mistral
Georgia O’Keeffe
Grace Hopper
Gwendolyn Brooks
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Tubman
Helen Keller
Indira Gandhi
Irene Jolio-Curie
Isadora Duncan
Jane Addams
Jane Goodall
Juana Inés de la Cruz
Judy Garland
Julia Ward Howe
Juliette Gordon Low
Kathryn Hepburn
Lucille Ball
Lucille Clifton
Madeleine L'Engle
Maria Montessori
Marie Curie
Mary Wollstonecraft
Miriam Makeba
Mother Jones
Murasaki Shikibu
Nadine Gordimer
Nina Simone
Patsy Cline
Phillis Wheatley
Rachel Carson
Rosalind Franklin
Savitribai Jotiba Phule
Sojourner Truth
Susan B. Anthony
Sybil Ludington
Virginia Woolf
Zora Neale Hurston

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