Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Meet the femojis: A new proposal to tip the online gender imbalance

Technology

Meet the femojis: A new proposal to tip the gender imbalance online

Here are some of the women in professional roles that are sorely needed to bring gender diversity to the emoji world, according to a new report

Do emojis have a woman problem?

A group of Googlers thinks so and has submitted a report urging rapid change to the way the Unicode Consortium depicts women in professional roles. The 13 new roles include women in business suits, as surgeons or doctors, women in science, not to mention a female welder, farmer and a rocker with a little Bowie-esque lightning bolt over her eye.

Emojis are little pictograms that smartphone users have pushed to new heights of popularity on social networks: they include everything from smiley faces to dancing ladies , a fire-breathing dragon and a smiling poop-shaped fellow nicknamed Mr. Slump .

Story continues below advertisement

Some "professional" emojis exist now – cop , detective , soldier , Santa – but mostly men are depicted in those roles. Female-only emojis include women getting haircuts , a princess , a bride , a couple dancing in playboy bunny costumes ... you get the drift. For each new professional-woman emoji suggested by Google there is a corresponding male emoji, too.

It would not be the first time emojis got an update: in early 2015 more skin tones were added so the bright yellow face could express some racial diversity.

Two men and two women authored the Google submission (including a gentleman named Agustin Fonts whose name suggests he was destined to have an interest in the future of digital typefaces), which relies on a number of surveys and news reports that show women have noted the uneven representation. An Adweek survey included in the submissions says that 92 per cent of people online use emojis, but also that 78 per cent of women are frequent users, compared to 60 per cent of men .

The consortium is a not-for-profit group which manages the standardized codebase that allows emojis to display on all platforms as if they were characters in an alphabet. The Unicode Technical Committee (the steering body that decides what new symbols Unicode will accept) last met in November 2015, and a look at the group suggests there may be room to improve representation. Of the 37 people in attendance or participating by phone, only seven were women. When less than 20 per cent of your decision makers are women, one can see how their views might be sidelined.

There is another group who feels marginalized by the Unicode committee: People who don't care about emojis . There is an increasingly agitated group of linguists, scholars and archivists who feel the consortium is spending too much time futzing with cutesy emojis instead of working to make rare grammar marks, ancient languages and minority dialects readable across all computer systems. Buzzfeed reporter Charlie Warzel wrote about the struggle, calling it "Emojigeddon."


MORE FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Globe staffers imitate their favourite emojis

1:21

Have we achieved gender equality? Nine Canadian women respond Women from across the country share their aspirations and the challenges posed by gender inequality.
Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.