Apple announced that it has decided to stop Siri from defaulting to a female-sounding voice. The company’s mobile devices will ask users to pick from a range of voices (female/male) when they set up the virtual assistant. Siri is Apple’s personal digital assistant that uses machine learning and natural speech to answer questions, relay relevant search information, perform actions, and more.
The news is the latest example of big tech companies trying to remove any gender associations from their digital voice assistants. Also, it’s a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to make their brand more inclusive and diverse. Gender stereotypes among voice assistants such as Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have long been a concern.
With this, Real Research online survey application conducted a survey to find out the public perception on gender stereotypes among virtual Assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, etc).
- A number of respondents (80%) have heard about virtual assistants. Furthermore, the majority (55.56%) use virtual assistants for communication such as texts and phone calls.
- 41% agree with Apple not defaulting Siri’s voice to female.
- More than 40% think that this decision highly contributes to gender equality.
- Notably, 34.43% prefer female voices for virtual assistants. Meanwhile, Siri took the trophy as the most popular virtual assistant among the respondents.
- Companies use female voices for better marketing business. Nearly 50% think female voices are appealing and increase company profits. (gender bias in virtual assistants)
Nearly 80% of The Respondents are Aware of Virtual Assistants
Real Research asked respondents if they have heard about virtual assistants. Interestingly, the majority 76.21% acknowledged that they are aware of Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant among the list. Virtual assistants can now be found in billions of devices across the globe hence the popularity.
The reason why 55.56% of the respondents use Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant is because of communication. This includes texts and phone calls. Furthermore, 22.05% utilize virtual assistants for alarms, reminders, or schedules. Mobile banking with 4.90% is another reason stated by the participants.
Meanwhile, 4.46% said for playing content such as music or videos, 1.84% for navigation. Lastly, nearly 4% use virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant for other reasons.
65.41% Agree with Apple on no Longer Making Siri’s Voice Female by Default
Interestingly, 65.41% of the respondents agree with Apple’s decision to stop defaulting Siri to a female voice. For so long there has been gender bias in virtual assistants, and people wondering why are Virtual assistants female? Hence the support with Apple in bringing change.
On the other hand, some respondents are not worried about gender bias in virtual assistants. Thus, 34.59% are not in agreement with Apple’s decision. They prefer Siri defaulting to a female voice. With these results, we learn that most people are happy with Apple’s decision towards reducing gender bias in virtual assistants.
Apple and Amazon’s Decisions Paves Way for Gender Equality
In the 2021 Superbowl commercial, Amazon featured its own virtual assistant Alexa. In a bid to reduce gender stereotypes in virtual assistants they gave the assistant a male voice. Amazingly, 69.59% of the respondents have seen the advert.
40.82% think that Apple and Amazon‘s efforts to offer a range of voices when making use of virtual assistants highly contribute to gender equality. This will assist in reduced gender stereotypes in virtual assistant use.
In line with this, 39.02% think they somewhat contribute to gender equality, Thereby reducing the number of people who question why are virtual assistants female. Meanwhile, 8.06% expressed that they definitely do not contribute to gender equality. While 12.10% said they do not know.
People Prefer a Female Voice as a Personal Assistant
Respondents were asked if they prefer a male or female voice when using virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant. Notably, the majority 34.43% said they prefer a female voice as a personal assistant.
As much as respondents are happy with Apple’s move to avoid gender stereotypes, it seems that they still prefer female voices. Remarkably, 29.96% prefer a male voice. Following after 35.62% are flexible with any voice for a voice assistant.
The results have shown a slight margin between those who prefer a female voice and those who prefer a male voice for a voice assistant.
Meanwhile, Siri took the trophy (29.98%) as the most familiar virtual assistant among the respondents. 28.42% said they are more familiar with voice assistant Alexa (Amazon). After comes Bixby (Samsung) with 16.79%. Following is Google Assistant with 12.84%. Thereafter, Cortana (Microsoft) with 4.63% and Eva with 0.70%.
Companies use Female Voices for Better Marketing Business
Questions have arisen on why is Siri female and more so why are virtual assistants female? Real Research sought to find answers to the above questions. 31.81% answered for ‘better marketing business’. 35.32% percent noted that it is because female voices sound more ‘pleasing and appealing’.
To continue answering why are virtual assistants female and why is Siri female, 13.69% said female voices are portrayed as more sympathetic, helpful, and cordial. 3.02% said they bring more customer satisfaction. Lastly, 1.38% said they are easier to be agreeable with.
Real Research further asked, ‘in your opinion do you think using female voices is appealing and increases company profits? The majority 46.99% think female voices are appealing and increase company profits.
On another note, 19.96% disagree that female voices are appealing and that they increase company profits. 33.05% said they do not know.
In conclusion, consumers expect a friendly, helpful voice when they need assistants, and in this case, companies portrayed female voices as the best solution. However, a United Nations report warned that voice assistants perpetuate the idea that ‘women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command’.
56.57% strongly agree with the United Nations statement while 27.01% somewhat agree. Hence, the need to eradicate gender stereotypes in virtual assistants and to also include a wider range of voices.
|Survey Title||Public Perception on Gender Stereotypes Among Virtual Assistants (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant)|
|Duration||April 23 – 30, 2021|
|Number of Participants||250,000|
|Demographics||Males and females, aged 19 to 99|
|Participating Countries||Afghanistan, Algeria, American Samoa, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan…Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, China (Hong-kong), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar [Burma], Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.