The New Female Emojis are Our Friends


I have shared stories before of when, at the start of the smartphone market, I would go into meetings with male colleagues and they would be shown the powerful new gadget while I was shown the pink phone with a mirror and very large keys. This did not just happen once and it was not just with Asian-based companies. I remember Research in Motion CEO Mike Lazaridis answering a question about how to sell to women with: “Just paint them pink!”

Last week, Google announced that the emoji subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization that develops and promotes software internationalization standards, had agreed to add 11 new characters that portray professional women in every skin tone. Furthermore, 33 existing emojis now have both a female and male version. This is the result of an effort by four Google employees who submitted the changes a few months ago as the debate on women’s equality was impacting, Hollywood, the US treasury and of course tech.

In this post, Google quotes some interesting statistics about emoji usage across the world:

 “Young women are the heaviest users of emoji. According to a September, 2015 SocialTimes report by AdWeek, 92% of online consumers use emoji. Of that user base, 78% of women are frequent emoji users, versus 60% of men. Likewise, age breakdowns of the emoji-active user base reveal that 72% of those under 25 are frequent emoji users, and 77% of users aged 25 – 29 are frequent users. Emoji usage begins dropping at age 30 (with frequent usage dropping to 65% for ages 30-35, and 60% for people over 35.) The nexus of female users and young users reveals that women under 30 are most the frequent emoji users by far.”

Representation matters when it comes to gender and of course it does not stop there or with emojis. If the tech industry wants to have more female engineers, designers, product managers, etc., girls needs to feel they can be one if they want to. And the same can be said about minorities in tech. Aside from the new emojis Google also launched, ahead of World Emoji Day over the weekend and through Made with Code, a new project that teaches coding skills through the creation of emoji-inspired stickers.


As a parent of an 8-year-old girl, I am very aware of using a variety of adjectives to describe her. Adjectives that go beyond her physical appearance and describe her skills, personality, traits. In her education, I make an effort to find books where girls and boys have different ethnic backgrounds and like different things. She is growing up being told she can be who and what she wants to be as long as she works for it.

I thought I had the basics covered. Then, a few weeks ago, she started to text and use emojis. Suddenly, she was using a form of expression I did not feel was comprehensive enough. It blew me away when she picked a “thumb’s up” emoji that was closest to the color of her skin and not just any color. She wanted that emoji to represent HER! But that was where her search ended. She could not find her curly hair or a female vet. As a matter of fact, she could not even find a dog that looked anything like ours (but ours are not mainstream dogs). If emojis are a form of communication, they should be as comprehensive as possible. Think about colors and how ancient civilizations had only names for colors they could make, red being one of the oldest ones. If they could not make the color, that color did not exist, even if it was present in nature. While fortunately, emojis are supplementing our communication rather than substituting it, I would hate to live in a world where the absence of an emoji would be the equivalent of an extinction warning. So, while by no means exhaustive, I do welcome these new emojis so my daughter will know being a bride is not the only career option she has.

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Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

44 thoughts on “The New Female Emojis are Our Friends”

  1. There are many ways, besides emojis, for your daughter to know being a bride is not the only career option she has.

    1. Sure, and it sounds like she is incorporating many of those. Which is probably what makes the emoji gap even more apparent.

      But this is symptomatic of a misogynistic culture that has and still does exist in technology. Which is ironic considering how much of a push we are seeing to get more girls and young women involved in STEM/STEAM education.

      But then I am a father of a daughter who majored in Applied Mathematics, so I suppose I am more aware than others.

      I mean, really, “Just paint it pink”? That’s not a problem?


      1. Dear Joe. Emoji gap? Really?
        I agree about your background, I’m a father of a daughter doing a doctorate in Physical Chemistry. Emoji’s didn’t get her there…. Misogyny be damned.

        1. That was the best I could come up with to be succinct. I actually prefer emoticons and hate it when I am auto-corrected into an emoji.

          However why this is important is for the same reason any language, and control of language, has always been important. History is not just written by the winners, it is written in the language that confirms the winners.


          1. “History is not just written by the winners, it is written in the language that confirms the winners.”
            Has a winner been declared? May we live so long. 🙂

          2. That’s why the discussion important now while the language is still being formed.


          3. Wholeheartedly agree. Place me in the camp that believes that we were wise to move on from hieroglyphics and cuneiform….
            Here’s the irony… 😉

          4. LOL. Agreed!

            Language is a systemic affect of the values of those who get to decide what words exist, what they mean, how the words are used, even spelled. Webster was quite the subversive when he created his first dictionary and changed the spelling of words like “theatre” to “theater, and “colour” to “color”, and changed the use of ‘f’ to ‘s’ in a lot of our words.

            There is reflected power in language, who wields it, and the weapon it is used as, and it is still used that way today. Non-whites in the US had to survive a long time to change the language from “savage” or “property” to “human”.


          5. Hey Joe. The word savage,etc. isn’t offensive, the very thought is. Fortunately today it’s more obvious just how ridiculous, but not enough.

            Objec r ingredients to “make it pink” is giving pink too much undeserved attention. Make pink irrelevant say i…

          6. Yes, true enough. In the abstract the words are harmless enough. When someone is only describing color or how terrifying a character in a story may be acting. The problem is the marginalizing that is imbued in those words, the attempts to use the words as weapons, thus the power of language.

            And sure, on an individual basis we should all be able to deflect these attempts at control. That does not negate the need to address the issues at a larger cultural and societal basis.

            “Pink” is not the focus of the attention. The schmuck and the culture that let’s him think he can use language to belittle people is the focus. You need to shift your attention, not the other way around.


          7. I agree, that is, until my BS detector goes off… That! must be called out into the open.

            The very title of the article did that for me.

        2. Getting back to your background a bit. A lot of language had to change in order for you daughter and her advisor to be where they are now. That’s history.


          1. I slept on that one, due to some petty aggravation…

            Language changed as a result of changes in thinking. That’s as it should be. When language constructs (censored one’s no less) are used to influence thinking, that’s just corralling the public.

            To ignore character, first and foremost, is tragic. The first step to success, for anyone, at anything, is character. All the more when the person is facing oppression. Sorry, “New Female Emojis are our Friends” will score a very low success rate at producing Applied Mathematicians or Physical Chemists. Much less than fundamentally honing character.

          2. Except for the author…
            This is not a dig at her, it’s a topic of discussion she raised. Not just the title either.

          3. Apologies for missing most of this exchange as I was having some mom and daughter time on holiday. The title was meant to mean that emojis are a welcome addition. Never have I said they are the means by which girls will get empowerment. My point is that emoticons or emojis are now part of how kids and adults communicates and representation matters. Of course it is way more important that companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft fund programs for girls to learn to code, do more to reach pay equality, hire more female engineers….The discussion is way bigger than these emojis, of course it is, but I still welcome them.

          4. First off, you’re very gracious. Thanks for understanding my point.
            Though this subject could never be given justice here, frankly all these little gimmicks (and big gimmicks as well) do not amount to much if character is not taught.

            No it is NOT up to companies to fund programs for girls, it’s society’s responsibility to fund quality education for ALL. This, in tandem, with values implanted at home.

            A few years back, I recall a story of a Korean Professor (HS teacher there) who made something like 4 million dollars, but here’s the real kicker…enjoyed rock star status. To leave something as important as that to the needs of companies is dystopian.

            We’ve been segmented, branded, and boxed every which way. Billy Joel’s “We didn’t Start the Fire” comes to mind, but then there’s Neil Young in “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

            “There’s one more kid that’ll never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool…”

          5. Absolutely agree that is up to society as a whole and empowerment starts at home . As I pointed out to teaching my daughter – who also has race to deal with – that she can be whoever and whatever she wants to as long as she works hard. But vendors have more at their disposal than gov’t has in most cases so it would b a good start

    2. Of course that is the case hence why I talked about the variety of books, programs, movies and so on that we make sure she is exposed to. But this is part of how kids now speak which was my main point

  2. If anything about you at all is dependent of emojis, you’re totally deserving of emoji’s. This is actually offensive, especially if factual.

    1. I don’t think anyone is dependent on emojis, but they are part of the language of the next generation, used to convey thoughts and feelings. It sounds like you’re being very dismissive of emojis, and if that’s the case that is what is “actually offensive”, and quite self-centered. Hopefully I’ve simply misunderstood your comment.

      1. Emojis raised as a self esteem instrument (positive or negative) is shallowness at best. How about actually being good at something as a booster of esteem? Puhlease. That’s why I consider it offensive.

        “but they are part of the language of the next generation”
        So? Idiocracy here I come. Like any convention, language requires agreement. If I were to insert tres before everything or a Swahili term, still does not make it English, until a consensus does so. I would never deny anyone’s right to do so, however.

        1. Idiocracy? I guarantee there are many people much smarter than you that are using emojis as part of how they communicate. While you say you wouldn’t deny their right to do so, you’re quite happy to ridicule, insult and deride those people. So, I didn’t misunderstand your comment after all, you really are that self-centered. You seem unable to accept anything that doesn’t fit within your own narrow world view. Good luck with that.

          1. You missed the word consensus, but feel free to speak Esperando, just don’t expect me to understand.

          2. I didn’t miss it. The problem is you don’t stop at admitting others have a right to do things that don’t conform to your narrow view. You go on to deride those that think and act in ways you don’t approve of. You’re very intolerant. You’re not simply saying “feel free to speak Esperando, just don’t expect me to understand”, you’re going one step further and ridiculing/insulting those that choose to speak Esperando. It would be fine if you didn’t go that one step further, but you always do, deriding those that make choices you don’t agree with. That just isn’t okay. You’re part of the problem when you do that.

          3. As I said…
            ” I would never deny anyone’s right to do so, however.”
            Facts just don’t matter to you, do they?

            If I don’t also speak Esperando, you speaking it to me just won’t matter. For there to be understanding, we both must speak it. You cannot impose it, only consensus can.

            You can write in crayon for all I care, I am not required to approve.

          4. Everything would fine if you ended it at “I would never deny anyone’s right to do so, however.” But you don’t end it there. You take it one step more and say things like “Idiocracy here I come” and “If anything about you at all is dependent on emojis, you’re totally deserving of emojis” and “shallowness at best”. You simply can’t resist the urge to ridicule and insult. That one step more is not okay. You’re correct that you are not required to approve, and you certainly don’t need to understand, but you do need to respect the choices of others and when you ridicule and insult you are being intolerant and disrespectful.

          5. I am not forbidden from passing judgement, in fact, I’m not even required to respect. I am perfectly within my rights to consider it idiocracy, as much as I am to consider the same of Kardashian followers. If I’m not mistaken, Ms. Kim has made millions off of these symbols or something. Good for her, I don’t need to condone.

            That’s just PC run amok, which is as oppressive as the worst forms of censorship.

          6. Well, at least you have the guts to admit that you’re a self-centered intolerant jerk, I’ll give you that.

          7. I use them, my kids use them, my wife especially likes to use them as part of her communication with friends, and we’re all wicked smart. I wonder where the knee-jerk intolerant reaction to things like this comes from? It’s almost formulaic, as in “I don’t like New Thing X, therefore people who use it or like it or agree with it are idiots.” I suppose it’s just human nature, which is kind of disappointing.

          8. I’m sympathetic, I think. I have no doubt he is coming from the perspective of not letting what’s important to someone else hold you back. I believe in that, too. But that doesn’t mean that things will be easy or that things don’t need to change.


          9. I’m definitely coming from the perspective of overplaced importance. To the point where they are self-esteem tools? That cheapens self-esteem.

          10. Language, in this context, is more about power than self-esteem. Making it about self-esteem is red herring at best. At worst, complicit.


          11. I am obviously not sympathetic to anyone who continually insults, derides and ridicules those who do not share their own views. It is in our nature to do this of course, but we need to act against that urge.

          12. Wow! That into emojis! I do judge you, but who cares? If your self esteem is at all influenced by them (as the author discusses) then whatever….

          13. Gruber has a timely observation about the person who got kicked off Twitter recently: “Expressing controversial or even unpopular opinions is one thing, and Twitter should remain open to that. Harassment is something else entirely, and Twitter should have zero tolerance for it. Empathetic human beings can tell the difference. Bullies, on the other hand, conflate the two.”

            When you judge, insult, ridicule, and deride, you’re engaging in harassment. It’s perfectly fine to disagree respectfully, but you almost always take it one step further and harass those that don’t share your world view. That is not okay. I realize you’ve convinced yourself it is okay, even noble, but it is not.

          14. Who’s Gruber and why should I care. I’ll leave the moderation to our esteemed moderators. I did not harass you, it’s you that took it personally.

            If your talking about my “idiotcracy” comment above, I urge you to read it again. It was in the context of “the language of the next generation”, that you brought up, not you per se.

            Now I’m sorry, but I need to start a a campaign to re-popularize Morse code.

          15. You’re not harassing me, that simply wouldn’t be possible. But you do harass (or attempt to harass) those that don’t share your world view. It goes far beyond a single comment. You continually ridicule, insult, dismiss and deride those with different values. I don’t take that personally, I’m just pointing out the truth re: your actions. It’s up to you whether you take in my observations and improve yourself as a human being. I hope you will.

          16. Spoken like a person who likes their ideas highly integrated, curated and from a single source…
            No sense in denying the future…

          17. Ah, now you’re trying to deflect. Well, that tells me I’ve had at least some small impact. Perhaps I’ve planted a small positive seed, one can hope.

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