Facebook just made a subtle design change to its icons that probably won't be noticed by the vast majority of its users but that could profoundly influence perceptions of women.
The changes were made to the tiny icons that appear in the upper right-hand corner of the social networking site. For years, the company had used a "friends" icon with a man and woman, with the woman positioned behind the man. Worse yet, the generic female avatar looked like her shoulder had been lopped off.
The symbolism was glaring to Caitlin Winner, a design manager who spearheaded an effort to change the icons. And in an industry under increasing criticism for its lack of gender and racial diversity, such decisions on designs contribute to the unconscious biases that have made it so hard for women to advance.
"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 wrote in a post on Medium.
Without much fanfare, Facebook began to roll out the changes for desktop and mobile users this week.
In the new "friends" icon, the female avatar is placed in front of the male icon .