Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner explains the design process in a blog post on Medium.
“As a woman, 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.”
To make matters worse, the female silhouette was actually poorly designed when seen on her own. “The iconic man was symmetrical except for his spiked hairdo but the lady had a chip in her shoulder,” wrote Winner.
Winner claims she “assumed no ill intentions, just a lack of consideration” in how the old icons were designed, and decided to make the woman’s silhouette equal to man’s.
The Groups icon also received a change; previously, it consisted of two silhouettes of a man and one of a woman, with one of the men in the foreground. The new icon has the woman’s silhouette in the front, with two men in the back.
As The Verge has noted, the icons are currently visible on mobile but not on desktop (at least for us).
The change comes shortly after Facebook slightly redesigned its logo, though that change seemed to be purely an aesthetic one.