“I won’t have ‘Alexa’ in my home.”
As Follows points out in her The Drum op-ed, Alexa and her skills are redundant. Do we really need a gadget to remind us of what we need from the grocery store? Can’t we simply watch The Weather Channel or, heaven forbid, look out the window when deciding what to wear? As annoying as they seem, these issues are surface level when compared to Follows’ real problem with her—that Alexa is presented as a woman.
Society has developed a recurring stereotype surrounding administrative workers that has surfaced in movies, books, and media. “They are white, middle class and—female,” explains Follows, “I really can’t stand the idea that this technological monkey that we ask to perform such tricks, has to be a ‘she.’ ‘She’ll tell you anything you want to know,’ we are constantly assured, as if she is just waiting for a command from her master.”
While this may have been the tipping point for Follows, Amazon isn’t the first company to put women in the clerical corner. Microsoft has Cortana—a virtual assistant shown in commercials to be serving men with scheduling, to-do lists, and reminders—and of course, we can’t forget Siri, the all-knowing Apple “personal assistant” we carry in our pockets.
How exactly does this affect us as women? According to The World Economic Forum, a new report reveals that 1.4 million jobs are expected to be overtaken by robots by 2026, and 57% of those jobs are held by women. The report also affirms that men will have nearly twice as many job possibilities as women when these transitions begin.
Ladies, this is what we fight against. The wage gap, gender bias, inequality. While we march today, these issues are being written into our future using technological ink. As Follows puts it, “We should no longer be worrying primarily about today’s pay gap between men and women but tomorrow’s pay gap between women and machines.” Take that, Alexa.
To read more about Women vs Machines, go to The Drum.
Photo: Andres Urena via Unsplash