New emoji send a message about women

Illustration of female professional emoji standing in front of rainbow (Google)
New emojis are being introduced by Google and Apple. (Google)

Soon people around the world who use emoji in their text messages will be capable of more nuance.

Ever since emoji were introduced to the screens of smartphones and tablets, three female archetypes — a dancer, a bride and a princess — have been among the (very) few keyboard images representing women, while figures of athletes and professionals have been male.

But recently Google announced that the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that sets international standards for software, has agreed to the company’s request to add 11 new professional emoji with distinct male and female versions as well as versions in several skin tones.

Unicode will also add female versions to the scores of existing male-only emoji (and in a few cases, will add male versions to existing female-only emoji). It means a man will be able to convey with a picture his plan to get a haircut, or a woman her plan to lift weights. Perhaps more important, emoji signifying a scientist, a farmer and several other professions will be available in female versions for the first time.

The new emoji can be included in future Android phones and other platforms. (Unicode ensures that people with different phones can send and receive the same emoji.)

Apple, for its part, has announced that its fall 2016 software update for iPhones and iPads will feature a more diverse set of emoji.

CBS News reports that professional women in the U.S. are responding positively to the changes. Karen Lee, ‎a director of digital and social media at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, tweeted:

In a blog post, Google says that while the current emoji choices don’t “highlight the diversity of women’s careers or empower young girls … we hope these updates help make emoji just a little more representative.”