Studies cited by the WSJ show that sexist attitudes are alive and well when it comes to preferences for gender in the voices of intelligent assistants.

An Indiana university study found that both men and women prefer a female voice, finding it welcoming, warm and nurturing. Microsoft and Amazon found the same thing in their own research. Even more tellingly, a Stanford University study reveals that preferences for male or female voices depend on the subject matter …

The study showed that a male voice was preferred when learning about computers, but a female voice when hearing about love and relationships. Interestingly, these same preferences were found in both men and women.

It also seems likely that human assistants historically being mainly women plays a part in expectations when it comes to artificial ones.

The piece notes that Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana all not only default to female voices, but don’t give you the option of changing to a male voice. Siri stands out here, defaulting to a female voice in most countries – including the USA – but offering the option to change it on iOS devices. In four languages, Siri actually defaults to a male voice: Arabic, French, Dutch and British English.

The WSJ‘s Joanna Stern invites people to change Siri to a male voice to help challenge the stereotypes. You can do this Settings > Siri > Siri Voice.

Do you think of Siri as male or female? Have you changed the gender of the voice? Please let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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