AI: a consumer perspective

Consumer perceptions of gender balances in AI
Posted by
Andrea Fjeld
Content Producer
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 - 12:41

The increasing use of AI, and specifically conversational AI such as Alexa, Siri, and Google, has posed many questions.

Why do all the conversational AI interfaces default to women’s voices? 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? What does this new paradigm mean for both women and the representation of women in the field of technology? And are consumers attuned to these developments?

Seeking answers to these questions, LivePerson surveyed 1,000 American consumers ages 18 and older about their perceptions of AI and the gender gap within the technology industry. The full research report can be found here.

Key findings include:

  • Most consumers (53.2%) never wondered why the default gender of voice assistants is female.
  • Many consumers (49.9%) believe the technology industry is made up of an equal mix of both men and women.
  • 8.3% of Americans said they could name a woman leader in the tech industry — but only 4% could actually do so.
  • A majority of Americans would trust “Big Tech” more if the companies had women leaders.

Awareness of gender in AI

While most respondents correctly identified that the default gender of voice assistants was female, not even half (46.8%) had ever thought about why that might be the case. The only demographic with a majority to say they had previously considered this fact was Gen Z (ages 18–24): 57.8% of this generation reported that they had thought about why most voice assistants have a female voice.

Most consumers believe that the technology industry has a gender balance on par with other industries

With a number of recent scandals bringing the male domination of the technology industry into focus, we looked at how consumers themselves view the industry. Our research found that most (60.4%) consumers see it as on par with others in terms of sexism, with women slightly more likely than men to think so (61.4% vs 59.2%).

When asked if people working in technology and AI were generally men, women, or an equal mix of both, 49.9% said an equal mixture of both.

Americans can’t name famous female leaders in tech

To break these perceptions down further, we asked respondents if they were able to name a famous male and female leader in technology. In stark contrast, 49% of consumers said they were able to name a famous male tech leader, with the top choices being (1) Bill Gates, (2) Steve Jobs, (3) Elon Musk, and (4) Mark Zuckerberg.

When it came to female leaders in tech, however, consumers were less confident, as only 8.3% claimed they could name a female tech leader. When tested, a mere 4% could actually give a name — and a quarter of them listed “Siri” and “Alexa” as female technology leaders.

Women leaders would inspire higher public trust

A majority of Americans say they would trust “Big Tech” more if the companies had women leaders. Women were more likely to feel this way than men (65.8% vs 51.7%).

Despite widespread consumer perceptions that women and men are equally represented in the technology industry, a wide gender gap remains — as evidenced by consumers’ inability to name a female leader in the field. However, the number of women entering the industry has seen an uptick in recent years, which bodes well for future improvements both in the workplace at tech companies, and in the products they create for the public.

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