The concept of the “Google Doodle” was born in 1998 when Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin modified the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man Festival by placing a stick figure drawing behind the word Google. Google Doodles are the fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, musicians, writers, and scientists. Google Doodles are now a regular feature on the Google search engine. One Google Doodle published globally is seen by 40,000 users a second or over three billion people in a single day. With such extensive visibility, the impact on the subjects Google elects to recognize cannot be overstated. Doodles are not just playful images, they educate the world about individuals and events Google deems important. It’s all good, right? Not quite. For over a decade Google’s selection of significant individuals to honor almost totally excluded women.
Between 1998 and 2010 Google produced 285 Doodles for Global distribution forty-three of which recognized the accomplishments of various individuals including artists Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol; musicians Luciano Pavaritti and John Lennon; writers Hans Christian Andersen and Robert Louis Stevenson; and scientists Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Alexander Graham Bell. But in the twelve years from 1998 to 2010, only one woman was honored with a Global Google Doodle, artist Mary Cassatt. It seems, Google could not find a single female musician, writer or scientist to honor in over a decade. Not one.
In the last four years Google has significantly increased the number of doodles honoring women. Nine doodles honoring women were published in 2014, fifteen in 2015 and 2016, and an astounding twenty-five in 2017. The Doodles are Google’s representation of the history of the world and convey powerful overt and subliminal messages to search engine users. By writing women back into history, Google is sending a strong message to the women of the world that their contributions matter. When is a doodle more than a doodle? When over three billion people see it.