Why Should Digital Assistants be Female?
You might have noticed that by default the digital assistants such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa are females. A new report titled 'I'd Blush If I could' released by UNESCO and Equals, a global partnership of governments and organisations dedicated to promoting gender balance in technology sector, pointed out that companies and governments should end the practice of making digital assistants female by default.
Among other advisories given are:
-explore the feasibility of developing a neutral ‘machine gender’ for voice assistants that is neither male nor female;
-programme digital assistants to discourage gender-based insults and abusive language;
-encourage interoperability so that users can change digital assistants, as desired;
-require that operators of AI-powered voice assistants announce the technology as non-human at the outset of interactions with human users; and, most vitally,
-develop the advanced technical skills of women and girls so they can steer the creation of new technologies alongside men.
Today 12% of AI researchers are women. Women represent only 6% of software developers and are 13 times less likely to file ICT (information and communication technology) patents than men. Bridging these gender gaps requires gender-responsive digital skills education. The publication features numerous recommendations on how to make technology studies more inclusive of women and girls and describes examples of good practice from around the world.