Hey, Ladies—You May Finally See Your Careers in Your Emojis
Female smartphone users who also happen to be brides, princesses, dancers, or beauticians see a lot of self-representation on their emoji keyboard. But what about women who are tech workers, professors, or scientists—professions that are depicted only by male emojis? Google released a proposal Tuesday that addresses the lack of professional female representation in emojis by proposing that 13 new characters be added to the roster—specifically, 13 female professionals (and their male counterparts).
“We submitted this proposal to encourage the creation and standardization of new professional emojis, specifically focusing on increasing the representation of women,” Liz Markman, a Google spokesperson, wrote in an email to TakePart.
The tech giant's proposition comes after Apple championed an effort in February to address the lack of racial and sexual orientation diversity in emojis by adding options for five shades of skin as well as same-sex families. Male emojis have occupations such as police officer, construction worker, and detective, but the ladies fill more stereotypically female roles.
A 2015 study from Procter & Gamble showed that 54 percent of girls feel female emojis are stereotypical and that 60 percent of girls believe society’s expectations have a negative impact on their life. Increasing female representation in a global user experience could help girls see themselves in careers that aren’t stigmatized as “female” jobs.
With Tuesday’s announcement, Google also noted that almost three-quarters of emoji users under 25, an age group just starting out in the job market, frequently use emojis. Young women are the most frequent users and collectively send more than a billion of them each day.
“No matter where you look, women are gaining visibility and recognition as never before. Isn’t it time that emoji also reflect the reality that women play a key role in every walk of life?” Google said in the proposal. The company wrote that it would like to have the new emojis incorporated by the end of the year.
Here’s a snapshot of nine of Google’s 13 options:
1. Industry: Business
Google description: Office worker, accountant, banker, manager, financial adviser, tax preparer, clerk
The modern woman might not wear a blue tie to work every day, but Google’s proposed business emoji reflects the increasingly prominent role women play in the corporate world. As of 2014, women-owned and women-led companies accounted for 36 percent of all U.S. businesses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This year, several corporations, including Dell and Etsy, launched expansive women’s leadership initiatives, and one social responsibility firm encouraged companies to reexamine and prioritize advancement and retention opportunities for women.
2. Industry: Education
Google description: Teacher, professor
Most educators no longer use the green-hued chalkboard depicted in the education emoji, but roughly 86 percent of primary-level teachers in the U.S. are women. Despite women dominating this role and even increasing their presence in higher education, studies show that students give higher ratings to professors they believe are male, regardless of the gender of the educator. A female professor emoji wouldn’t hurt women’s representation in the field.
3. Industry: Music
Google description: Rocker, rock star
Get ready to text or tweet a female rocker sporting a Bowie-style lightning bolt over her eye—especially when you’re fed up with gender inequality in the music industry. Despite male artists' continued dominance of radio airplay, there are plenty of rocking female role models. Lady Gaga has criticized the industry for being a “boy’s club,” and singer-songwriter Grimes has said that for female musicians, rape threats and sexual assault are simply “part of the job.”
4. Industry: Science
Google description: Scientist, chemist, lab technician
Got a new experiment cooking? Turn to this test tube–toting female scientist. Fewer than three in 10 science and engineering jobs are occupied by women. In this stereotypically male-dominated field, the lack of female representation has led female scientists to take to social media to make their voices heard and their accomplishments known. The hashtag #GirlsWithToys went viral last year after a California Institute of Technology professor told NPR during an interview that most scientists were “boys with toys.” Female astronauts, physicists, and engineers tweeted photos of their projects in response.
5. Industry: Food Service
Google description: Chef, cook
The idealized image of a chef usually includes a bright-white, arrow-straight, crisp chef’s hat like the one perched atop the head of this emoji, but the reality is that many food service jobs pay minimum wage (or less, to account for tips). Nearly 56 percent of minimum-wage workers are women, and the average fast-food worker is the primary breadwinner of the family. Feminist leader Gloria Steinem called for a higher minimum wage for fast-food workers last year, framing it as an issue that adversely affects women.
6. Industry: Farming
Google description: Farmer
When we hear the word “farmer,” we might picture “Farmer John” or start singing the nursery rhyme “Old MacDonald.” But the pitchfork-toting farming emoji will come in handy for the women who make up a large portion of the agricultural workforce around the world. Female farmers are increasingly presentn the United States, and in most parts of Africa and Asia, women hold around half of all agricultural jobs. Despite their hard work growing crops, women are often treated unfairly or paid less than their male counterparts. In West Africa, women cannot own or inherit the land they tend and cannot farm with tools of the same quality as men, resulting in lower crop yields. In Ghana, female cocoa bean farmers aren’t allowed to participate in the same financial cooperatives as men.
7. Industry: Technology
Google description: Software engineer, person coding, working on laptop
Move over, tech bros. Thanks to the technology emoji, women who code will soon have a character depicting their work. The representation of women in tech has been a hot-button issue in recent years: Reports show that 75 percent of the tech workforce is male, with guys dominating top positions at big companies such as Facebook and Apple. Campaigns like Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls” have targeted the disparity by teaching girls to code and encouraging them to engage in the tech community. Similarly, in March, Arjuna Capital, a Massachusetts-based investment firm, challenged top tech companies to close their wage gap by the end of 2016, and some have met that goal. Google hopes to release three other technology-related emojis: a factory worker, a mechanic, and a high-tech-industry worker holding a microchip.
8. Industry: Education
Google Description: Graduate
9. Industry: Health Care
Google description: Doctor, physician, M.D.
The woman in the health care emoji sports a stethoscope and lab coat, just like her male peers. Health care is one of the only fields where a woman might earn more, on average, than a man in the same position. While female doctors generally earn less than male doctors, they can make $1.02 as a physician adviser or $1.01 as a health educator for every dollar a man earns, according to CNN. A penny or two cents may not be much, but it’s a start. As part of the 13 recommendations, Google also suggested a health care emoji for a nurse, dentist, anesthesiologist, or radiologist.