Google proposes new set of female emojis to promote equality

The 13 new representations presented at the Unicode consortium include cartoon female engineers, chemists, plumbers and farmers

Google employees have proposed a new set of emojis aimed at promoting gender equality in the workplace, including cartoon female engineers, chemists, plumbers and farmers.

The Google team presented the designs of 13 new emojis on Tuesday at the Unicode Consortium, a Silicon Valley not-for-profit group that runs an emoji subcommittee overseeing the creation of new emojis.

No matter where you look, women are gaining visibility and recognition as never before, the four Google workers wrote in their proposal. Isnt it time that emoji also reflect the reality that women play a key role in every walk of life and in every profession?

As emojis have exploded in popularity in recent years, there have been ongoing debates about diversity in the available images, prompting the creation of more racially diverse faces as well as same-sex emojis.

Of the 92% of online consumers who use emojis, 78% of frequent users are women, compared to 60% of men. Photograph: from website

Given that millions of people across the globe use emojis as an important means of communication and that women under 30 are most the frequent emoji users by far, the Google proposal said its not surprising that women and men are increasingly vocal about the need for more accurate female representation in emoji professions.

Jeremy Burge, the founder of both the online resource Emojipedia and World Emoji Day, as well as a member of the Unicode Consortiums Emoji Subcommittee, told the Guardian that the proposal from Google was well-written and pragmatic from an encoding point of view, meaning that it could be implemented fairly quickly.

If something like this were adopted, it could be put on phones this year, rather than waiting 12 to 18 months for Unicode 10. … The pitch from Google is basically if we want to do this, and sooner than mid-2017, this proposal would allow that.

Burge was in favour of the proposal. Its pretty clear that female-oriented professions are under-represented in emoji, and this approach is a clever way to address the issue now, rather than pushing it down the line.

He said he expected more would be known about the outcome by the meeting of the Unicode Technical Committee in August.

Of the 92% of online consumers who use emojis, 78% of frequent users are women, compared to 60% of men, according to the report.

There have also been growing concerns about sexism and stereotypes that female emojis can promote. Last month, first lady Michelle Obama tweeted that she would love to see a girl studying emoji, the Google proposal noted.

The Google team chose professions for its proposal based on labor data and the increasing interest in gender equality in science, technology, engineering and math.

Ultimately, they came up with a list that included jobs in farming, manufacturing, healthcare, technology, business, education, food service and music.

The team said it hopes the adoption of their emojis will be rapid: Given the urgency to improve the representation of women in emoji, we recommend standardizing these characters as quickly as possible.

Elle Hunt contributed reporting.

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IVF: ‘I had the dread feeling that I was part of some greater experiment’

In this extract from her book Avalanche, a love story, Australian author Julia Leigh unflinchingly explores her desire for a baby and the deeply personal pain of her IVF journey

The straws of sperm were shipped from one clinic to another. One precious straw was tested for the sperms motility and possible deformations. Under the microscope, everything was swimming. When it was already too late, I was ready to go.

After consulting with the doctor, I chose to proceed with an IUI, intrauterine insemination, at a cost of $2,040, of which about $670 would be reimbursed by Medicare. I would do it with a nudge of Gonal-f, 75 IU, to boost my chances. On Day 9 the clinic would start monitoring me for my LH surge.

I also had an ultrasound. It was similar to using a turkey baster at home (although I had heard the best way wasnt a turkey baster but a plastic syringe acquired at any local pharmacy). Why did I involve the clinic, why not try at home? Well, I wanted the donors sperm to have cleared the HIV risk, and more than that I wasnt sure he would have been comfortable making home deliveries.

And why not go straight to IVF? My thinking was that my eggs had never had a chance; the problem had been my husbands lack of sperm. I hoped that if my egg was exposed to healthy sperm, then I wouldnt need to undertake the more invasive, and expensive, IVF.

On the appointed day of ovulation, I arrived at the facility. A nurse there was no doctor involved tried to insert a fine plastic tube into my cervix but after a good 10 minutes of prodding, failing, she gave up, apologised and left the room to find another nurse. Alone, alone.

The second nurse had better luck. The thawed sperm which had also been rinsed and concentrated was injected directly into my uterus. It was uncomfortable, like having a bad period cramp. I asked if I could keep lying down for 15 minutes. Quietly excited, I tried to visualise conception, the sperm and the egg.

I placed my hands on my belly and sent loving energy to the womb. My doctor had said I could stand on my head and meditate if I wanted but that kind of thing wouldnt make any difference. I paid no heed. After I left, in a laneway off the main road, I found a paperbark tree and peeled away some bark, placed it under my T-shirt, gently rubbed my skin in a circular motion. Absurd but who cares. It was soothing. I believe in ceremony. Anything to counter the unnatural situation.

My friend in New York paid a surrogate. She lives in a beautiful place, interstate, so much nature. The whole thing felt really natural. Nature. Natural. She continued to repeat the word natural like a nervous tic or mantra.

Avalanche, a love story, by Julia Leigh. Photograph: Penguin Random House

The day after the procedure, I called my sister in an embarrassed small panic. Id absent-mindedly eaten some sushi, which was a no-no according to one of the books Id read, What to Eat When Youre Expecting. Oh my god, youre fine, she said. You can snort heroin for breakfast at this stage and youll be fine. Dont be insane. Its not going to be like this the whole time, is it?

Good morning, darling. Every day I greeted my belly as if an embryo had implanted. Disregarding the odds of success, I directed a loving monologue to what I hoped existed. Id long harboured a platonic crush on my donor, considering him a trusted battle-worn compadre, and I believed the child of our friendship was also meant to be. (Did I still carry grief for the lost our child? Yes, of course I did.)

During that first two-week wait, I had a heightened awareness of my whole body. Rarely did I ever stop to consider how my body was functioning, what my cells were doing. Typically I completely ignored the subtle movements that go on all the time: the inflating, deflating lung; the inch of chyme through the intestine; the tremors of the liver and the kidneys. Not that I actually felt these things, but I pictured them, sensed them. What is that way of knowing? Out on the street I noticed that all the babies, toddlers and pregnant women had cloned themselves so now they were everywhere. I smiled at young mothers. I was soft and optimistic, the holder of a wonderful secret. Its easy to do anything once.

Blood. Bloody hell. Hopes raised, hopes dashed. But I wasnt devastated: no need to take a fall straight out of the blocks. My mother was right when she said: It would have been an absolute miracle. I opted to immediately do a second IUI, again supported with nightly injections of Gonal-f.

It was impossible to gauge the quality of my eggs with only one try. I was monitored regularly but not daily and when the nurse called me with my scheduled time for the procedure I queried if the time wasnt too late, if it were possible the LH surge could have begun on the day before when I wasnt tested, if too many hours could have passed between an undetected surge and the procedure. She referred me to the doctor. He said: Ive seen the numbers a thousand times. This is how we do it. You have to trust me. I asked him to quickly explain how the time-window worked. If you dont trust me, he replied, we can cancel.

The second IUI failed. As a next step Dr Rogers recommended I use my frozen eggs and also do a fresh cycle at the same time. I took that to mean Id do a new cycle, collect a new batch of fresh eggs, inseminate them, and at the same time, thaw the frozen eggs, inseminate them too.

Why not just use the frozen?

You get more with both.

Ive already got five frozen so why do I need more?

Up to you.

Is there a difference between fresh and frozen?

There are no second-class children.

I mean, is one more viable than the other?

Not much difference.

Okay, Ill just do frozen.

Whatever you want.

Thats reasonable. Up to you. Pick your own misadventure.

Coffee. At the orientation, the dietary advice I received from the clinic was to moderate my coffee and alcohol intake and take folic acid, 500 mcg [0.5 mg] daily. I asked what was moderate and was told one cup a day would be fine. A million websites and bulletin boards advised no coffee. They also advised countless other things. Stay alkaline. Wear a lead-lined apron on airplanes. Avoid bananas.

I decided to cut out coffee completely. After three months of IVF failure, I reverted back to one cup a day. I trawled the internet and found the study about caffeine … it concluded that five cups a day was to be discouraged. Sometimes I felt guilty when I had my morning coffee: what if this coffee was the one thing between me and pregnancy? Most times I thought if one coffee a day kills my chance, that dear embryodarling wasnt strong enough to last the nine months anyway. I oscillated between guilt and pragmatism, and that movement, that kinetic energy, helped drive the little engine of endurance.

I saw Paul at the pool. Vampire! Monster! I swam as if I were drowning, thrashing the water, wild-armed, wrenching my head from side to side. I moved fast. No chance to ruminate. At the end of each lap, I paused to catch my breath. Exhausted.

The month after the second failed IUI, I readied for a frozen egg cycle at an out of pocket cost of $2,705. Again I was monitored closely so that we could time the transfer of the embryo to be in sync with my natural cycle. The frozen eggs would be thawed and artificially inseminated the day I naturally ovulated. I was told that three out of five eggs had survived the thaw and they had been injected with sperm selected under digital hi-magnification by a scientist, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI.

Actually I always did ICSI the doctors never recommended straight IVF, which is where the sperm fight it out in the Petri dish en route to the egg. ICSI cost an additional $730, which in the scheme of things felt nominal (how quickly the scales transmogrify). Later I read a study that questioned why so many doctors always recommended ICSI, speculating there may be some benefit to a stronger fitter sperm fighting its way to the egg in the Petri dish, just as it did under the auspices of Mother Nature.

Overnight one embryo showed development but it was atypical. It contains three pieces of genetic information. Three pieces of genetic information! The nurse told me that it couldnt be transferred. My sister and I joked about dirty pipettes but in fact my egg had divided abnormally and carried an extra set of chromosomes.

The nurse had further bad news: my remaining two embryos had shown no development. They would be kept another night and checked in the morning to see if there were any changes: I was warned this was unlikely but not impossible. I had been out on a boat that day, up and down, up and down, rolling on the heavy swell, and come evening I had full-blown vertigo. If I dipped my chin an inch to look at a screen, I felt as if I were about to pitch face-first off a cliff.

The next morning, in my vertiginous state, I got the polite, carefully delivered news that there were no signs of improvement. All five embryos were to be discarded. All five gone, tossed away, discarded. For a long moment I was silent and then I quietly asked the lab assistant, You definitely destroy them? It troubled me how invisible everything was: how would I know what they really did with my embryos? Who monitored the checks and balances? Scenarios for horror movies made themselves known. Evil lab assistant sells embryos on baby black market; evil doctor fertilises eggs with own sperm to create own private colony of children; evil research director conducts clandestine experiments to grow babies full-term ex-uterus … As it happened, in all my five subsequent egg collections I had a much better success rate with embryo development, always ending up with something that could be transferred.

I was having trouble sleeping so in the middle of the night I walked down to the playground at the end of my street. All the ghost-children were at play. There were little boys crawling over webs of rope, little girls kicking up their heels on the swings. They sang and squabbled and thrilled at making footprints in the dirt. I told a girl I loved her outfit. Its not an outfit! she said. Its a tiger suit! A black-haired boy sat beside me and whispered in my ear, Change doctors.

I went back to the same clinic website and found a new doctor, to be known as Dr Nell. My GP wrote a referral. No one at the clinic asked any awkward questions as to why I was switching. On the wall of Dr Nells office was a noticeboard pinned with thank-you cards and baby photos. Her manner was kind and thoughtful.

We discussed my options for the next cycle. Id do a new egg collection. She raised some optional extras that were available as part of the service. The first was a chromosomal test that could be done on the embryo that would cost an additional $3,670. It was especially helpful, she said, for women whod had recurring miscarriages. That test needed to be booked months in advance so I didnt opt for it. For $265 I was also offered assisted hatching, whereby a lab technician would use a laser to thin the outer shell of the embryo, making it easier supposedly for the embryo to hatch out prior to implantation. Older women, I was told, have a harder outer shell. The procedure carried a small risk of penetrating the shell and damaging the embryo.

And on top of that if I wanted I could try embryo glue for $150, this was also supposed to aid implantation. I asked her whether there was evidence for increased chances of success with the assisted hatching and the embryo glue. They apply pigeons, to draw the vapours from the head. She said there was no clear evidence but that if I went ahead I could say Id done all I could. What would you do if you were in my shoes? I asked. She said, Its up to you.

This time I didnt use the glue but I did in subsequent cycles. The cost ended up being $9,675 (plus anaesthetist and day-surgery fees on top). Medicare reimbursed just under $5,200. I had the dread feeling that I was voluntarily participating in cutting edge medicine, that I was a part of some greater experiment, a credulous and desperate older woman, and the only thing that made me think these dread thoughts might be mere anxiety, that actually I was the lucky beneficiary of years of advanced medical research, was the calm and caring manner of my doctor, who on a personal level did seem sincere in her desire to help me fall pregnant, just as she had helped all the women who had sent her those colourful cards pinned to her wall.

Extract from Avalanche by Julia Leigh, published by Hamish Hamilton, $24.99.

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Softball star Monica Abbott first woman in US team sports to sign $1m contract

Monica Abbott has become the first woman in US team sports to sign a contract worth $1m

Softball star Monica Abbott has become the first woman in US team sports to sign a contract worth $1m. The pitcher won a silver medal the 2008 Olympics with the US team and now plays for Houstons Scrap Yard Dawgs, who only established themselves in the National Pro Fastpitch League in October 2015.

Abbotts contract is for six years and she will earn a base salary of $20,000. Most of the remaining money will come from bonuses linked to attendances, with her salary capped at $180,000-a-year. The bonuses should be easy to make: they require crowds of more than 100 fans and the league average is around 1,000 per game.

In my mind, it represents an opportunity for the younger players in our game, Abbott told ESPN. The pro league, its continued to grow year-in and year-out. And even with my [former team the] Bandits … we were constantly talking about creating a future for the next generation. For me, thats what I see in this deal. I see opportunities for other athletes, for the college girls coming in, for the college freshmen, for the 12-year-olds. I see opportunities for them to only be a professional softball player. To not have to have another career, another job.

The former grand slam tennis champion Billie Jean King, founder of the Womens Sports Foundation, called the deal historic.

This contract recognises Monicas talents, her accomplishments and her contributions on and off the field and it sends the right message that womens professional softball is stepping up and making salaries and athletic achievement a major priority in their league, King told ESPN. This is a historic contract for professional softball and for all womens sports and I hope it is the first of many to come.

Abbott stands 6ft3in and her fastball reaches 77mph. She threw a perfect game at the 2008 Olympics and had an earned run average (ERA) of 0.31 last season. The league average was 2.86. She also plays professionally in Japan.

Despite her new contract, Abbott is unlikely to be the highest-paid female athlete in the US. Soccer star Alex Morgan is estimated to have earned as much as $5m last year although the vast majority of that figure was in endorsements. Similarly athletes in non-team sports can earn much larger sums: Serena Williamss prowess on the tennis court earned her $10m in prize money alone in 2015.

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Who’s behind this army of Donald Trump-loving Twitter bots?

There is a small army ofTwitterbots working to getDonald Trump elected president.

Earlier this month, Patrick Ruffini, the politically conservative co-founder of the social media analytics company Echelon Insights, sent out a tweetstorm about the bot network, after he discovered a collection of highly suspicious Twitter accounts tweeting pro-Trump messages. The accounts were also urging followers to file complaints with theFCCabout robocalls generated by the campaign of Trump’s GOP primary rival, Texas Sen.Ted Cruz.

Ruffini noted that many of these accounts didn’t exclusively tweet about Trump. They also tweeted marketing spam.

According to Sam Woolley, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies the political use of social media bots, this type of behavior is relatively common.

A lot of the time, the place where someone is buying bot followers, a marketing firm or … content-management firm, is working for a lot of different people, Woolley said. Bots are among one of many, many different tactics they use.

By Ruffini’s tally, in the 30 days prior to April 7, the accounts had tweeted over 1.7 million times. About 411,000 of those tweets were about Trump. He also estimated that the group had collectively retweeted Dan Scavino, the Trump campaign’s social media manager, 13,000 times.

Shortly after Ruffini tweeted about the bot network, the original tweets about reporting Cruz’s robocalls to the FCC were deleted. However, the Daily Callercaptured screengrabs of the tweets before they were taken down.

Ruffini did not respond to our requests for comment. However, a few days later, he sent a series of tweets digging into one Twitter account in particularone that sparked a national outcry after Trump himselfretweetwed a meme unflatteringly comparing pictures of Cruz’s wife Heidi to Trump’s wife Melania.

A message to the account in question was not returned.

Ruffini posted a Google Docs spreadsheet listing nearly 500 Twitter accounts he believed to be part of the bot network. A quick check of 20 randomly selected accounts in the list found that 12 of them rated as having more than a 50 percent chance likelihood of being bots, according to theBotOrNottool developed by Indiana University Bloomington’s Truthy project, which performs a series of tests to grade Twitter accounts based how bot-like their behavior is. A significant number of accounts on the list had been suspended by Twitter.

This instance is not the first time Twitter bots have been discovered to be boosting Trump. Immediately following the Nevada caucuses in February, a number of Twitter accounts appearing to belong to Latinos, based on their names and photos, all tweeted an identical message about Trump winning 40 percent of the Latino vote in the state,indicating the accounts were likely bots.

While every high-profile Twitter user has some bots among their followers, in his own poking around the Twitter following of the 2016 presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, Woolley has noticed that Trump and Democratic frontrunnerHillary Clinton have unusually large numbers of bot followers.

You can pay to have fake followers, but also a lot of time fake followers will just follow you, Woolley said. I’ve been manually doing some investigation on Trump and Clinton. … Both of them have a lot of bot-looking profiles that are just Twitter eggs with no followers, but they tweet all the time solely about … how great trump is or … about how great Clinton is. It seems pretty suspicions from my point of view.

An analysis conducted by Followerwonk on behalf of FiveThirtyEight found that the two leading candidates, Trump and Clinton, havesignificantly larger shares of automated followers8 percent and 7 percent, respectivelythan do their primary rivals, who top out at about 4 percent (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate) or below.

Ever since Twitter became widely recognized as a powerful tool for political organizing, political organizations have used bots to amplify their messages on the micro-blogging platform. In 2010, researchers discovered bots thatwere sending out messages promoting the website of then-House Minority Leader John Boehner. Two years prior,as discovered by a pair of researchers at Wellesley College, another network of Twitter bots, all created within minutes of each other, sent out a flurry of messages intended to influence the outcome of the special Senate election contest in Massachusetts between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown to fill the seat left open by the death of Ted Kennedy.

Discovering the existence of these bot networks is often the easy part. It’s typically much more difficult to determine who is operating them and, even trickier still, to determine if a campaign is directly responsible. In the case of these Trump bots, it hasn’t been determined if they’re the work of the campaign (which did not respond to a request for comment), an outside group (like a super PAC), a false flag effort by one of Trump’s opponents designed to make the real estate heir and former reality-TV star look bad, or just an individual Trump supporter with too much free time on his or her hands.

Woolley, however, has a theory.

My best guess is that the campaigns … hire digital strategy firms, and those digital strategy firms say, These are all the things we can do for you, he said. Bots are just one of them. The candidates and the campaigns, I’m guessing, are more divorced from the bots. They’re ultimately culpable, because they’re paying these strategy firms to help them with their content management … and bots are just one way they think helps them with their brand.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

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