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Small Change Brings Gender Equality to Facebook Icons

A subtle tweak to icons on Facebook highlights the need to pay attention to every detail when thinking about equality and inclusion.

Up there at the top of your Facebook page is a little "friends" icon. Perhaps you never noticed that it's a woman standing behind and in the shadow of a man — or perhaps you did, and wondered why it shouldn't be the other way around, or any other way. Facebook designer Caitlin Winner wondered the same thing, but since she was in a position to change things, she decided to give it a shot.

The old icon, left, and new one, right.
The old icon, left, and new one, right.Facebook

A few weeks of pixel-tweaking later and she had created new icons — an updated, more detailed woman in front, a less angular man, and even a gender-neutral icon for times when such things aren't known or don't need specifying. A few weeks more and the icons had made their way to apps and interfaces throughout the service.

Related: Facebook Diversity Stats: About as Bad as Yahoo, Google

It wasn't just male and female icons that are getting the treatment, either. People in the Americas might not have cared that the "notifications" icon showed those continents — but Africans, Europeans and others might have preferred a globe that shows their home instead. So the designers added it.


Perhaps few people will notice these subtle changes (the icons aren't big), but they're still important in terms of promoting equality and inclusion in every circumstance, no matter how small.