This may not be the case in some regions, but Alexa from Amazon, Google Assistant and Siri from Apple have by default, in most countries and in the United States, a female voice. This poses a gender problem. It is sexism according to a UNESCO report.
The problem comes from the industry
What UNESCO's Director for Gender Equality, Saniye Guklser Corat, calls "obedient and obliging machines claiming to be women" are multiplying in homes, cars, offices, and are used by more and more citizens around the world.
She adds that: "the world must pay more attention to how, when and if artificial intelligence technologies are gendered, but more importantly, who is gendered". What she means here is that the problem would come directly from the industry, which lacks diversity, and which, in fact, reinforces gender stereotypes.
Indeed, in the artificial intelligence industry, there only 12% of researchers, and only 6% of developers, are female. A meagre figure that says a lot. According to the New York Times, experts say that these prejudices and disparities are well entrenched in the AI sector. The co-founder of Woman Leading in A.I explains that: "it is not always a malicious prejudice, it is an unconscious prejudice and because of its unconsciousness, it is perpetuated". These problems occur, she says, because of the lack of diversity of teams and ideas.
Who is hiding behind Siri, Alexa and Cortana?
Google Assistant has a neutral name (but still a female voice), Amazon was inspired by the Alexandria library to give Alexa her name, the wink is not bad, but it is undeniably a woman. You will laugh about the meaning of the other names of the vocal assistants we meet on a daily basis...
Siri, which has a male voice by default in France, is a Scandinavian word that would mean "beautiful woman leading to victory". What about Cortana from Microsoft? That's probably the funniest part.... The vocal assistant is named after a female character of the same name from the Halo video game series, without clothes and rather sexy...
Blush, if you can...
The UNESCO report, entitled "I'd blush if I could", inspired by one of Siri's responses, provides recommendations proposed by the United Nations and calls on technology companies and governments to stop proposing a female voice by default and to make these voice assistants gender-neutral tools.
The problem should, therefore, be addressed at source, as explained in the UNESCO report (done jointly with the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and the coalition Equals Skills), which promotes gender balance in the technology industry.