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Technology New emojis fall short of gender parity despite push for more female characters

Sorry ladies, it appears the people responsible for updating those weird little emoji characters on your phone (or desktop) are not quite ready to increase the representation of women in the universal images.

The complete list of 72 new symbols approved by the Unicode consortium can be reviewed at this Web address, but a quick perusal shows that while images representing food and animals are the big winners with the most new representations, women are still on the outside looking in.

Back in May, we wrote about a group of Google engineers and designers who urged the consortium to create a set of femojis, "a new set of emoji that represents a wide range of professions for women and men with a goal of highlighting the diversity of women's careers and empowering girls everywhere." Surveys suggested that young women were the most prolific users of emojis (78 per cent of women used them compared with 60 per cent of men), but the femoji proposal was actually a gender-balanced one: for every proposed image of a woman as a farmer, scientist, welder or coder, there was a corresponding male version, too. The consortium – the voting members are majority male – decided to balance the genders of only four existing emoji:

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  • Santa gets a Mrs. Claus.
  • The bride gets a groom.
  • The dancing lady gets a dancing man.
  • And the princess gets a prince.

A number of new sports were also added with male-only options: Greco-Roman wrestling, water polo, handball and fencing.

The new shrug ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), facepalm and selfie emojis appear to be women, but the only new female characters are a pregnant lady and a gymnast (emojis actually look different across Android, iOS and some Web browsers, so some gymnasts appear female and some are more neutral looking).

The lack of space for professional images for women didn't stop the consortium from adding emojis relating to: a clown face, a smiley with a cowboy hat, a wilted flower, an avocado, a pickle/cucumber, stack of pancakes, donair or kebab, tumbler full of whisky and a bunch of Olympic-style medals in time for Rio's games.

The consortium did confirm that the rifle emoji would not be added (news that came after the horrific mass shooting in Orlando), but due to the lateness of the decision it has already been created as a Unicode symbol.

At least Canada finally has an emoji that's clearly aimed at us: the canoe (there's also a goal net that looks like a hockey net or a soccer net depending on your phone).

The next chance for new emojis won't be until 2017, but there are already some candidates under consideration, including a dumpling/potsticker and another one Canadians might appreciate: a curling stone.

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