Nearly Half of U.S. Men 18 - 44 Believe Digital Sexism Is On The Rise Yet Still Prefer “Alexa,” “Siri” and “Amy”

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Additionally, nearly 18 million owners of voice-activated devices have no idea if they are listening to a man or a woman’s voice

Today, market research group Radius Global Market Research announced the results from its first “Digital Sexism” survey. Digital Sexism is discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex or gender - online. The report findings, based on 1,083 adults between the ages of 18-44 nationwide, found that Digital Sexism, specifically with voice-activated personal-device assistants (as found in Amazon, Google, Apple products), is definitely still prevalent in the United States. However, it’s not the women that think so.

On the heels of Susan Fowler’s expose in February 2017 detailing her experience with Uber as well as a recent CBC News article on “Why are all virtual assistants women” in January 2017, it could easily be assumed that women are the ones who feel that sexism is still prevalent. In the CBC article, technology columnist Ramona Pringle stated that these virtual assistant devices are designed to be subservient, and the creators send a clear message by making them all “female.” Pringle explained that “When you consider that the majority of early adopters of these tools are men, this is troublesome, especially as their preferences will surely continue to shape these powerful tools as they become adopted more broadly.” Will they? If the data is correct, more male voices should be heard through household windows and offices nationwide.

However, the idea is contradictory. According to the study, nearly half (46%) of men believe that defaulting all voice activated personal assistant devices to female voices sends the wrong message about women’s place in society - but they’re not willing to change the settings. Why? The majority of men (55%) see a female voice as more “trustworthy.” This was across the board. 71% of women stated that they also did not trust the male voice. Even the majority of owners of these devices agree with them; 51% of them trust a female voice. But surprisingly, 61% of those that believe that defaulting all devices to female voices sends the wrong message would trust a male voice over a female.

“Most men would consider the fact that virtual assistants are designed to be subservient, sexism,” said Jamie Myers, Global Director, Client Services at Radius Global Market Research. “It’s an interesting phenomenon, but the data supports that just like Stanford Communications professor Clifford Nass told CNN in 2011, ‘it’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes. It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.’”

The report also found that 23% (18 million people, roughly) had no idea whether or not their voice activated assistant was a male, or a female. However, this is something that technology companies have often struggled with - finding a voice that is “genderless.” According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Joanna Stern in an interview with Nuance Communications Inc., creating a genderless voice is hard. Nuance was able to create a childlike, less-gendered voice for SoftBank’s Pepper, however, “Pepper is still identified as male.”

“We understand that it is difficult to create genderless voices; however, it was quite startling to hear that nearly a quarter of America couldn’t identify whether they were hearing a woman or a man’s voice,” said Myers. “That truly begs the question, is it really Digital Sexism, if they don’t even know what the voice is?”

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Radius Global Market Research from February 9 - 13th, 2017 among 18-44. The sample is representative of US adult population. The survey was conducted utilizing an online panel of respondents. A complete survey method is available upon request.

About Radius Global Market Research
Radius Global Market Research ( is one of the largest independent market-research companies. For more than 50 years, the business has partnered with global marketers to develop insight-based strategies that drive brand performance. A superior level of senior team involvement is the hallmark of Radius GMR's approach. Radius GMR is based in New York. Global operations include London-based Radius Europe, Radius MEA in Dubai, and Radius Asia in Beijing.

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Andrea Holland
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