Unbeknownst to millions upon millions of smartphone users, there is a mysterious, non-profit organization called the Unicode Consortium that wields an astonishing amount of power and influence. This shadowy body, formed in 1991, nominally exists to ensure that printed characters from various languages and alphabets can be understood and shared by different computers and operating systems across the world. Noble if dull, right? However, just like the rest of the planet, the Consortium has found itself increasingly occupied with emoji in recent years. This, after all, is the organization that approves and regulates the popular pictograms. Before an emoji goes legit, it has to pass through the Unicode Consortium first. Enjoying that smiling poop emoji? Thank them. Hate that emoji? Blame them. Either way, respect them.
An organization like this can use its powers for good or for evil, depending on the whims and motivations of its members. Luckily, the Consortium has not turned a deaf ear to the public’s pleas for more gender inclusive emoji. As noted by BuzzFeed news reporter Charlie Warzel, the Unicode Consortium recently approved a slew of new emoji, including a few that represent women in various careers, including welding, farming, and medicine. “The emoji council of elders just passed gender equality,” writes Warzel. For the record, the new emoji were created by a quartet of Google engineers, including Mark Davis, who also co-founded the Consortium. They are among 100 new pictograms included in a just-released developer preview of iOS 10.
Appropriately enough in an Olympic year, the new emoji also include images of women participating in a variety of sports, including surfing and swimming. It’s hard to believe that such images didn’t already exist or that it took an organization like the Unicode Consortium to officially approve them, but that’s how emoji work.
A whole range of skin tones just recently became available to them, thanks to another recent update. And as BuzzFeed reporter Joseph Bernstein points out, “the push for gender equality goes both ways.” In other words, some emoji that were previously female-only now have male counterparts. So a boy emoji can receive a scalp massage, while a girl emoji can be a police officer.