Last year, the Oxford Dictionary named the cry-laughing emoji its "word of the year" — appropriately so, too. It's an icon that nails a reaction in a single image more than any string of words could. So if emojis are quickly becoming a language of their own, then it's crucial that there be a diversity in options for these expressions.
This week, a team of Google employees introduced a new set of emojis of professional women — and their male counterparts. According to its proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that develops software internationalization standards, the new emojis' goal is to highlight "the diversity of women's careers and [empower] girls everywhere."
The 13 proposed emojis include women in science and medicine, construction, labor, and even a female musician emoji, complete with a Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt across her face.
The current options for female emojis on our keyboards are limited to ones nail-painting, dancing, or brides and other tired female tropes. The lack of female representation in emojis even gave rise to the #LikeAGirl campaign, and calls for more options exploded around the internet.
Back in March, Amy Butcher wrote in The New York Times:
I began to scroll through the emojis on my phone. 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... 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?
"For millions of people around the world, emoji are an important means of communication — and a strong representation of culture," the proposal read. "Yet the roles of people in the workplace cannot be communicated with emoji. This is especially true for women."
Developers Rachel Been, Agustin Fonts, Mark Davis, and Nicole Bleuel are the team behind the new emojis. They are urging the Unicode Consortium to standardize the emojis "as quickly as possible," though the process of approving new emojis can be a long and arduous one.
While it is undoubtedly true that there are larger issues at hand (like the gender wage gap and domestic violence rates) women have long gotten the shorter end of the stick when it comes to proper representation — whether in Hollywood movies, STEM fields, or emojis limited to female stereotypes. And considering the fact that young women use emojis more than any other demographic, it's time someone focuses on correcting that.