Announced this month, Q is the world’s first genderless voice. It was created to end gender bias in AI assistants, through a collaboration between Copenhagen Pride, Vice’s creative agency Virtue, Equal AI, Koalition Interactive and thirtysoundsgood. Major tech companies – including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple – not to mention banks, airlines, hotels and retailers exclusively choose between male and female voices when developing virtual assistants. The creators of Q believe this reinforces a binary view of gender and perpetuates stereotypes. In their words: “As society continues to break down the gender binary, recognising those who neither identify as male nor female, the technology we create should follow”.
Two challenges to bring to your team:
Never sit back. During the first wave of virtual digital assistants, a widely raised issue was that they were predominantly given female voices. The assumption that subservient figures (even those coded into existence!) should be female? Straight-up digital sexism. The tech giants felt they’d solved that issue by providing a choice between male and female. Yet social norms never stop changing. And, thankfully, groups who’ve long been ignored find their voices. Barriers that have existed for centuries get torn down. Think it’s just Millennials with bold new values? 35% of Gen Z know someone who prefers that others use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to them, versus 25% of Millennials (Pew). Does your organization chase after social norms and then sit back down to catch your breath? Because consumers won’t wait around.
Forehead-slapping representation. When it comes to better representation in business, our favorite examples are the ones where one brand takes a step that immediately highlights how exclusive and out of touch the entire category has been. The moment the press release hits 1,000 inboxes, the instant the YouTube pre-roll plays, as soon as the billboard goes up… *SLAP* An entire industry screams: how the f*ck did we miss this? The Fenty Effect is a classic money-maker of an example. Are you actively searching for the opportunity to put an end to hidden-in-plain-sight discrimination in your industry? If only we could ask Q: what would Rihanna do?