Gender Ambiguous, not Genderless: Designing Gender in Voice User Interfaces (VUIs) with Sensitivity

Selina Jeanne Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article

13 Citations (Scopus)


In 2019, UNESCO's report [36] highlighting sexism, and the release of 'Q The genderless voice'[38] 1, triggered a waking-up to issues of gender in voice assistants. However, there is a danger that their coincidental timing implies that the latter is the solution to the former; that a voice assistant with a genderless voice cannot be sexist. This paper outlines how gender is not inherent in voice - listeners assign gender to voice. Also, this paper highlights that gender is constructed through a multitude of resources. Thus, a genderless voice is redundant if other elements of the voice assistant's design cause it to be gendered. I posit two take-homes; i) a change of terminology to gender ambiguous will help reframe how we think about gender in voice assistants, and ii) that we should critically engage with all potentially gendering elements in the design of voice assistants, not just the voice, in order to consider gender in a more sensitive manner.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the 2nd Conference on Conversational User Interfaces
Early online date13 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2020


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