Online images reinforce occupational gender stereotypes

The bias limits the ability of people to select careers that may suit them

By Author  |  Published: 5th Feb 2020  6:53 pm
TECH PITFALLS

Gender bias and stereotypes corresponding to certain occupations are prevalent on digital and social media platforms such as Twitter, says a study.Online images of men and women in four professions – librarian, nurse, computer programmer and civil engineer – tend to represent and reinforce existing gender stereotypes, said the study published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

Women were overrepresented as librarians and nurses and underrepresented as computer programmers and civil engineers, especially when the collection and curation of content is largely automated by an algorithm, such as on Twitter, showed the findings.

“Gender bias limits the ability of people to select careers that may suit them and impedes fair practices, pay equity and equality,” said study co-author Mary Chayko, a sociologist at the School of Communication and Information.

“Understanding the prevalence and patterns of bias and stereotypes in online images is essential, and can help us challenge, and hopefully someday break, these stereotypes,” Chayko added.On platforms where individuals can generate and curate content more directly, such as the NYTimes.com and Shutterstock, stereotypes were more likely to be challenged, the findings showed.

“More direct content curation will help counter gender stereotypes,” said Vivek Singh, assistant professor in Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information.While women generally tend to be underrepresented in male-dominated professions on digital media platforms, Singh noted some progress toward equity in the gendered presentation of images from 2018 to 2019.