Technology

‘Alexa’ and ‘Siri’ aren’t women tech leaders. But some Americans think they are, survey finds

One of the women in tech is Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
One of the women in tech is Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. AP

About half of Americans can name a man who is a leader in technology — whether it’s Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk.

But when a new survey asked respondents if they could name women tech leaders, the results weren’t exactly encouraging. Only 8.3 percent of the 1,000 American consumers surveyed said they could name a woman tech leader — and only 4 percent of respondents could actually come up with a name.

Even more alarming? A quarter of the respondents who offered a name said “Alexa” or “Siri,” according to the new study commissioned by LivePerson, a technology and messaging company.

One of the goals of the research was to determine Americans’ attitudes about artificial intelligence (AI) services like Alexa, Siri and Google, which feature women’s voices.

“Why do all the conversational AI interfaces default to women’s voices?” Andrea Fjeld, a content producer for LivePerson, asked in a post about the research. “Will the continued use of AI carry with it the gender stereotyping and historical baggage of the last 30 years, when women in technology were largely marginalized?”

About 85 percent of respondents said they realized the default gender of their voice assistants was female, but only about half of the respondents said they’d questioned why, the survey found. Roughly 45 percent of respondents said they preferred women voice assistants, and another 45 percent said they didn’t care about the gender. Less than 10 percent said they’d prefer a male voice assistant.

About half of survey respondents said they generally think there’s an equal mixture of men and women working in the technology and artificial intelligence sectors.

That’s not how the gender divide in tech and science breaks down in real life, though: Only about 24 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are held by women, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The entire U.S. workforce, meanwhile, is about 47 percent women.

And while survey respondents struggled to name famous women in tech, there are women in powerful leadership roles at several tech companies.

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook, came to the social media company after serving as an executive at Google. She’s worth more than $1.5 billion, Forbes reports.

YouTube’s chief executive is a woman, Susan Wojcicki, as is IBM’s leader, Ginni Rometty — and Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle, is among the highest paid women executives in the world, Forbes reports.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they would trust big tech companies to be more ethical if women were at the helm, the research found.

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