Google designs 'empowered' women emojis

Female emojis Image copyright Google

Google engineers have designed a set of 13 emojis that they say better represent women in the world of work.

The designs have been presented to the Unicode consortium, the body that approves and standardises emojis.

The team said that they hoped the samples would “empower young women (the heaviest emoji users) and better reflect the pivotal roles women play in the world”.

It includes healthcare workers, scientists and businesswomen.

Fierce professionals

Emojis are icons that are increasingly being used in mobile and web messaging to help tell a story.

The term – which means picture (e) and character (moji) in Japanese – was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.

The team of four Google employees cited a New York Times op-ed called “Emoji Feminism” as the motivation for its new designs.

“Where, I wanted to know, was the fierce professional working her way to tenure? Where was the lawyer? The accountant? The surgeon?” asks Amy Butcher in the piece.

“We are told we are the new generation of American women; no longer a minority, we are, in fact, the majority of breadwinners in American homes. And yet the best we can get is the flamenco [dancer].”

Ballerina v disco-dancer

Research by Procter & Gamble suggested that 82% of girls aged 16-24 use emojis every day. More than half of those surveyed thought that female emojis were stereotypical.

Google’s designs include women in technology, construction, farming and the food industry. The female musician emoji includes a homage to the late David Bowie – with a pink zig-zag on her face.

Users can already select from different skin tones as well as the generic yellow on some devices.

Recently Emojipedia, a search engine for emojis, proposed that you should also be able to choose the colour of hair and specify gender.

All emojis need to be approved by Unicode to make sure that they display properly across the different platforms.

However, emojis can look very different on competing platforms – a dancer emoji for instance shows up as a ballerina on LG phones, a man disco-dancing on Samsung devices, a yellow blob with its arm raised on Android and a flamenco dancer on iOS.

The next batch of emoji candidates is due to be released mid-year but it is unclear whether Google’s designs will be approved in time to be included in this.

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