A quick perusal of the emoji database reveals no shortage of doctors and lawyers and business executives, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that these are all male characters. Women emoji can be found, but they’re generally princesses, brides, or icons designed to convey beauty. Where are all the working women at? They exist in real life, so why aren’t they showing up on our phones? We have space for over a dozen images of Japanese food but not one woman with a degree? This is the question Google is asking, so they’ve submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium recommending the addition of 13 new female emoji that would give women better representation.
In their proposal, Google cites the writing of Amy Butcher, who published a piece in the New York Times about this very issue:
Yes, there were women’s faces, and tiny women’s bodies. But for the women actually engaged in an activity or profession, there were only archetypes: the flamenco dancer in her red gown, the bride in her flowing veil, the princess in her gold tiara. There was a set of ballet dancers complete with bunny ears and black leotards, their smiles indicating that, gosh, they were so grateful to God and everyone, really, for this opportunity to pose for Playboy…
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.
This is an important issue to take on. The inclusion of only males fulfilling these roles plays into long-standing stereotypes that reinforce the notion that occupations in the fields of tech, industry, and business are ‘man jobs.’ Indeed, the reason that we’re seeing such a troubling shortage of women in STEM fields today is because young women have long been subtly encouraged by myriad elements of our society to seek historically female roles that prize beauty and nurturing capabilities over intelligence or innovation. Having a female scientist emoticon is just one small step toward showing young women that a career as a scientist is in the cards for them.
The Unicode Consortium has come under fire for failing to meet modern standards of equal representation in the past, but when challenged, the organization scrambled to create same-sex emoji and an array of varied skin tones. We’d be surprised if they didn’t rise to this occasion as well, so we bet you can expect to see some more emojis representing women in the workforce and higher education in the future. In the meantime, what are your thoughts regarding this Emoji Feminism? Let us know in the comments below!