Female-Sounding AI Voice Assistants Reinforce Gender Bias, Reports Said

Digital assistants have came a long way, before arriving to mobile devices, smart home appliances and car infotainment systems.

What makes them so special is that, the technology enables users to interact with voice commands, rather than the traditional typing method, making things much more convenient.

They are the digital "assistants" made by Google, Amazon, Apple, and others.

But who knew that these AI-talking technology could be perpetuating harmful gender biases, that according to a UN report.

That because they all use female voice by default.

The report, titled “I’d blush if I could”, stated that the female helpers are often depicted as “obliging and eager to please,” which reinforces the idea that women are “subservient.”

It also states that their ways in giving “deflecting, lacklustre, or apologetic responses” are making them even more alluring for abusers and criticism.

"Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are... docile helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like 'hey' or 'OK'. The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility," the report says.

While their calming voices may try to emphasize that females are more helpful than men, they are at the same time, illustrate the gender as helpers that are always available anytime to serve their masters

The assistants here, are somehow represented as something that holds no power beyond what their human users ask of them. These AIs respect and obey all commands (as long as they understand them), and honor them with happy responses regardless of their human users' tone or hostility.

These female helpers here are portrayed as "obliging and eager to please", reinforcing the idea that women are "subservient", the report finds.

In many communities, this reinforces commonly held gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment.

Smart speakers

In the modern days of the internet, things have gone far from typing.

With the advancements of technologies, companies have managed to create sensors capable of 'sensing' movements, allowing users to control devices with gestures, and better AI software that allows users to communicate with their devices using voice commands.

As a result, millions of people are already benefiting from the technology, making them capable of doing something else while multitasking.

But why female? Why AI assistants are always depicted as females?

First of all, while their usage spans genders, but those people and developers creating smart assistants are overwhelmingly male.

Companies like Apple and Amazon, are crowded by teams of engineers, which are mostly men. This testosterone-packed ecosystem caused them to "feminized" digital assistants, and unfortunately, making them to greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation.

Microsoft's Cortana was named after a synthetic intelligence in the video game Halo that projects itself as a sensuous unclothed woman. Apple's Siri on the other hand, means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory" in Norse. Google Assistant has a better gender-neutral name then its two counterparts, but its default voice is female.

Modern voice assistants actually do give some elements of controls, allowing users to change their voices, accents, or genders. But still, they all default to a female voice.

Here is where the report comes. the UN calls on technology companies to stop making voice assistants female by default.