Google Employees Propose Emojis of Women in Professional Roles

Friday, May 13, 2016
(graphic: Google)

 

By Karen Workman, New York Times

 

When it comes to emojis, women can be brides or princesses, paint their fingernails, get a haircut and go dancing in a red dress. If those sound like roles determined by the patriarchy, well, it’s not a new complaint.

 

But it may be changing. Google wants to add 13 emojis to represent women, and their male counterparts, in professional roles.

 

“Isn’t it time that emoji also reflect the reality that women play a key role in every walk of life and in every profession?” said a proposal from a team of Google employees that was submitted to the Unicode Consortium, which serves as the midwife to new emojis.

 

The proposed emojis include women in business and health care roles, at factories and on farms, among other things. Google wants the organization to approve them by year’s end, but the process of getting new emojis onto keyboards is a long one during which things can change or be scrapped.

 

Even after the final version of a new emoji has been approved, there is more to be done. Vendors have to work on them and manufacturers have to add them to phones.

 

“These don’t magically appear once we approve them,” Mark Davis, a founder and president of the Unicode Consortium, said in an interview about 67 other new emojis last fall.

 

Davis is also part of the four-person Google team that proposed the new emojis. He could not be reached for comment, but the consortium is meeting this week.

 

The previously submitted 67 images — which include a Mother Christmas figure as a counterpart to Santa Claus — were scheduled to be voted on this month. A shark, an avocado and two strips of bacon were in that group, too.

 

But the Google proposal answers a demand for better representation that has even gotten the attention of Michelle Obama.

 

In March, feminine products company Always published a video of girls talking about how emojis don’t represent them.

 

“I’ve got rock climbing, biking, playing basketball,” one said in the video, looking at her phone, “but none of the girls are doing this.”

 

Obama responded on Twitter, saying she would like to see an emoji of a girl studying.

 

Her request doesn’t appear to have been answered, but the proposal noted both the Always campaign and the first lady’s response to it, as well as a New York Times Op-Ed article published in March.

 

“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?” asked Amy Butcher, an assistant professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University, in the column.

 

The proposal noted the importance of having gender-neutral emojis as well.

 

“However, as this is not the focus of this effort, we suggest decoupling the gender-neutral representation of emoji from this proposal,” it says.

 

To Learn More:

            Emoji Meet the Legal System (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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