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Google Proposes 13 New Emojis for Gender Equality

Topics: Current Events

Take a look at your emojis for a moment. Can you find one that looks like a woman with a career? You won’t find a businesswoman, a scientist, a doctor, or even a female graduate wearing a mortarboard. In fact, the recognizably female emojis are retrograde in the extreme: there’s a bride, and a princess, and a dancer – just about the only one that could be representing a profession.

Why is this important? Because emojis are everywhere, and far from being without impact on our professional lives, even if we never use them at work. The lack of female professional emoijis matters for the same reason that it matters that the average crowd scene in a movie is only 17 percent female; because if girls don’t grow up seeing women succeeding in professional life, it’s hard to imagine themselves doing the same. Now, four Google employees have proposed expanding emojis to include 13 new images – all depicting women working at jobs.

emoji women

(Photo Credit: Google, via Tech Insider)

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Recently, Rachel Been, Nicole Bleuel, Agustin Fonts, and Mark Davis presented their proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that picks new emojis. The proposal begins with a plea from Amy Butcher’s recent New York Times op-ed, Emoji Feminism:

“Where, I wanted to know, was the fierce professor working her way to tenure? Where was the lawyer? The accountant? The surgeon? How was there space for both a bento box and a single fried coconut shrimp, and yet women were restricted to a smattering of tired, beauty-centric roles? This was not a problem for our male emoji brethren. Men were serving on the police force, working construction and being Santa. Meanwhile, on our phones, it was Saturday at the Mall of America — women shopping while men wrote the checks.”

The team notes that Unicode TR52 provided for parity between generic emoji, but propose adding 13 profession-specific female images to the roster.

“We believe this will empower young women (the heaviest emoji users), and better reflect the pivotal roles women play in the world,” they write.

Who’s on the List?

The team created their list by looking at data on fast-growing and female-dominated professions, as well as representations of women in media and culture. Their proposal included female emojis dressed in attire that identifies them as businesspeople, doctors, scientists, graduates, tech workers, welders, farmers, and more. There’s even a rock star emoji of a female musician, throwing the horns and wearing a very Bowie-esque lightning bolt on her face.

Not in this proposal: gender-neutral emojis. But, that’s not for lack of interest in providing equal representation.

“We recognize the importance of having an inclusive representation of all people in emoji, whether they identify with a specific gender or not,” the team writes. “We believe an egalitarian, sensitive, and compelling representation of gender in emoji is extremely important.”

The proposal concludes by suggesting that the members of Unicode continue to work on creating emojis that offer a means of expression for all users.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think representations of women in media matter in real life? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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