The original friends icon Facebook offered shows the silhouette of a man with a smaller silhouette of a woman behind him. In the group icon, the original image is of a larger male silhouette, upfront again, flanked by a smaller male to one side and a woman’s silhouette to his other. The new icons position the woman front and center as well as update everyone just a bit.
Facebook employee Caitlin Winner explains why she pushed for this change in a piece for Medium. “I was moved to do something about the size and order of the female silhouette in the ‘friends icon,’” writes Winner. “As a woman, educated at a women’s college, it was hard not to read into the symbolism of the current icon; the woman was quite literally in the shadow of the man, she was not in a position to lean in.”
Winner, who is a design manager at Facebook, says working on this project has caused her to be on alert for how other symbols and icons are viewed. She notes that a briefcase might have been the default icon for “work,” but is it still relevant for that purpose today? It’s good to see that Facebook is keeping up with the times — especially when it comes to gender equality — and that there are employees within the company who are looking for ways to continue being progressive beyond the actual technology aspect.
“We all want to continue to make Facebook the best it can be,” Winner writes. “…to have culture of doing rather than complaining, to grow a company where ideas can spread organically, and to build a platform that is relevant for people from it’s core features down to the smallest of icons.”
The changing of an icon may seem like a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction. One where women aren’t automatically positioned smaller and behind men, but in front, in charge and with a decent-looking hairdo that doesn’t resemble a helmet.