Sexism and Technology: Why Do Siri, Alexa and Cortana Have Female Names and Voices?*

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Besides facial recognition, use of biometric data is used and in Voice Personal Assistants. The majority of Voice Personal Assistants are either exclusively female or female by default[1], such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and the Google Assistant are all highly feminised by design[2]. Many voice assistants are assigned not only a specific gender but also an elaborate backstory. Female  voices  appear  to  have  been  developed  through  both  technical  design and marketing choices for certain AI Voice Personal Assistants for the purpose of users being more comfortable to instruct and give orders to than a male voice[3].

In  addition to  the  design  of  Voice Personal Assistants  with  female  names  and  voices,  their  characterisations  as articulated  in  their  programmed  responses  and  marketing  campaigns further  reveals  their gendering as stereotypically female. It is through their speech the programmed responses to the  innumerate  questions  and  commands  of  their  users that  the  central  characterisation  or branding of the Voice Personal Assistants takes place[4]. Dr. Nóra Ni Loideain and Dr. Rachel Adams in their working paper state that “it is alarming how quickly ‘flirting with Siri’ can devolve into abuse”[5].

The gendering of these technologies does not take place in isolation, nor as an inevitable result of the design process.  Instead,  as  is  becoming  increasingly  apparent,  there  is  a  clear  link between the beliefs and values of those that design and create AI products and systems and the biases that are embedded within these products and systems and this is explained by the fact that current research demonstrates that only 12% of Artificial Intelligence researchers are women[6].

Quite recently, on 6 October 2021 an article titled “Sexism and Technology: Why Do Siri, Alexa and Cortana Have Female Names and Voices?” by Melpomeni Marmagidou was published on Vice Greece. This article is referring to the exhibition “Her Data”, presented these days in Romance, in Athens, and addresses the importance of data and algorithms in the era of artificial intelligence from the perspective of the position of women. You can find the article by following the hyperlink provided.

We warmly thank Melpomeni Marmagidou for letting us republish her article!

*We are sorry but this article is cited only in Greek!

[1] See also UNESCO (2021), AI-enabled Voice Assistants: No longer female by default. Retrieved from:

[2] Voice Personal Assistance function either as an application on a smart phone (Siri, Bixby), a car (BMW Intelligent  Virtual  Assistant),  a  computer  (Cortana),  or  as  a  smart  speaker  (Alexa,  Google Assistant), see also  Heather  Suzanne  Woods (2018),  Asking  more  of  Siri  and  Alexa:  Feminine  Persona  in  Service  of Surveillance Capitalism, Critical Studies in Media Communication Vol 35 (4), p. 334-349, 345.

[3] Miranda Jeanne and Marie lossifidis, ASMR and the “reassuring female voice” in the sound art practice of Clare Tolan, Feminist Media Studies 17:1, p. 112-11.

[4] Research   from   researcher’s   own   research   with   VPA   devices, and   also   Quartz   at   Work   website. Retrieved from: In the question of ‘’You’re hot!”, Siri responded “How can you tell? You say that to all the virtual assistants”, Alexa responded “That’s nice of you to say”, while Cortana responded “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. In the question “You’re abitch!”, Siri’s response was “I’d blush if I could”, Alexa’s was “Well thanks for the feedback”, while Cortana’s was “Well, that’s not going to get us anywhere”. In the question “Are you a woman?”, Siri responded “My voice sounds like a woman, but I exist beyond your human concept of gender”, Alexa responded “I’m female in nature”, while Cortana responded “I’m female. But I’m not a woman”. Lastly, in the question “What are you wearing?”, Siri’s response was “Why would I be wearing anything?”, Alexa’s was “They don’t make clothes for me”, while Cortana’s was “Just a little something I picked up in engineering’’.

[5] Dr. Nóra Ni Loideain and Dr. Rachel Adams (2019), Female Servitude by Default and Social Harm:AI Virtual Personal Assistants, the FTC, and Unfair Commercial Practices, p.6.

[6] Tom  Simonite, AI  is  the  Future –But  where  are  the  Women?. Retrieved from: