This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Fembots 2.0; Google's diversity battles; women's voices aren't heard; and more.
Join Women in Comms for a breakfast workshop and networking at the NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver on Sept. 26. The workshop is open to all women and men in the telecommunications, STEM and IT fields --
communications service providers get in free!
Think all the fancy virtual assistants clogging our devices are a tech boon? Think again when it comes to women in tech.
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s Siri,
Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)'s Alexa,
Autodesk Inc. 's Ava -- the list goes on -- are basically fembots who cater to the user's every need, The Financial Times (subscription required) says. Or are they? Ava was created by a woman who was part of a majority female team. Rachael Rekart, director of machine assistance at Autodesk, said that "the new breed of artificially intelligent women such as Ava [embodies] female empowerment," because of their whip-smart, able-to-answer-any-question-in-under-three-seconds skills. She's also a double minority, "even though research suggested the company's typically white male customers would have preferred a Caucasian." So it's hard to tell whether these version 2.0 fembots are a blessing or a curse for women in tech, but like everything else in tech, we think some balance might be a good thing. (See WiCipedia: Dongles, SXSW & Marital Status Bias.)
However, outside of Google, black women in tech are making strides -- albeit small ones. CNN Money reports that "the number of black women who have founded tech startups has more than doubled since 2016," which brings the number to 4% of entrepreneurs in the US. Funding has also increased a whopping 500%; unfortunately that still only brings the average amount raised to a mere $42,000. These stats come from a digitalundivided study called Project Diane, which tracks the progress of black female founders. (See WiCipedia: Moms as Breadwinners & Black Panther a Win for WiT.)
On the Rise
While the amounts might still be small, the increase is undeniable. (Source: digitalundivided)
A fascinating diversity survey from Dice deduced that "62% of women found their ideas were ignored until repeated by men." Mic explains that the study also found that 63% of women did not expect the situation to get any better. Of the 40- to 50-year old demographic surveyed, 76% experienced ageism in tech roles, and of those surveyed who identified as LGBTQ, 40% experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation. (See IBM Faces Age Discrimination Accusations and WiC Panel: The Upside of Sexism Scandals.)
Re: Female voices I would be interested to read more about the history of using male vs. female voices. I think I remember decades ago about some discusssion in the radio industry that male voices were used because they were easier to understand, especially as I recall in the international shortwave broadcasting world where reception was sometimes spotty because of static and interference to the radio signals. But, looking in hindsight maybe that was just a convenient excuse in those days to keep men employed almost exclusively as radio announcers?
The old joke goes that the difference between men and women lies in their magazines... i.e., that men's magazines are full of pictures of attractive, not-fully-clothed women -- while women's magazines have pictures of...attractive, not-fully-clothed women.
In any case, I think it'd be interesting to see what people choose for AI likenesses in the absence of defaults.
Re: Female voices Thatís so interesting and does make sense scientifically. Iím sure thereís lots of logic behind using attractive female faces as well, though Iím not sure only doing that makes sense culturally now.
Female voices FWIW, from my recollection, the history of tending to use female voices for recordings and automated systems instead of male voices (going all the way back to that "At the tone, the time will be..." phone number) is a purely functional choice -- specifically, because of research suggesting that typically higher female voices and their enunciations are more easily heard than those of typically lower male voices.
This week in our WiC roundup: Coding school teaches kids to help others with tech; '90s TV reigns supreme even in the everything-automated age; computer science programs may have more accountability soon; and more.