Women's day
Mar 08, 2022
7 MIN READ

Women Voice AI Influencers Discuss Breaking the Bias for International Women’s Day 2022

For 2022’s International Women’s Day, we’re being challenged to #BreaktheBias, working toward a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. This year, the challenges for women have been magnified by a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted women. Unequal distribution of home-life duties, parenting, and work-life stress and anxiety, women left the workforce in unprecedented numbers in the last two years. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, adult women’s employment rate during the pandemic was at its lowest level since 1988. Women of color and mothers of young children were most impacted, with 7.2% fewer adult Black women, 5.9% fewer adult Hispanic women, and 7% fewer mothers of children under 13 employed in June 2021 compared with February 2020.

Last year, we asked women voice AI influencers to weigh in on gender bias, taking a deep dive into their personal journeys and experiences with gender stereotypes. For 2022, we wanted to focus on the theme of #BreakTheBias and highlight actions our employers, the voice community, and even women themselves can take to bring greater equity to women in the workplace. 

This year, we reached out to the exceptional women of the voice Ai community and asked two questions: 

  • What can voice-first companies do to make our workplaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive to #BreakTheBias?
  • How will you finish this sentence: “I will… #BreakTheBias.”?

As we sent out our queries, we noticed a trend in responses—a lot more women working in voice AI couldn’t reply this year. Schedules, pressures, and life are keeping them too busy to participate. To those women, we offer our greatest support and empathy and hope to reconnect with them next year. The women who were able to participate did so despite the increased demands brought on by the pandemic. For that, we are grateful, as we feel strongly that this is an important conversation.

Here’s what 9 brilliant, inspiring women working in voice AI have to say about gender bias and how they pledge to work toward a world where difference is valued and celebrated. 

Women of the voice AI community #BreakTheBias

Nithya Thadani

CEO, RAIN Agency
@rainagency

“During the pandemic, parents—and specifically, mothers—have been put through the wringer of zoom school, childcare gaps, and general home chaos. Just read the New York Times series called Primal Scream—it brought me to tears. 30% of mothers reported symptoms of depression or anxiety over the past two years. The juggle is real! In this new reality, we as leaders must be empathetic and create boundaries where they no longer exist.”

“I will prioritize empathy, work-life boundaries, and the mental health of my team. #BreakTheBias” 

Jenna Isham

Sonic Brander/Composer
Founder of Dreamr Productions
@Jeanna_Isham

“I don’t usually think of bias being purely gender as I’ve never felt particularly harassed in that way. I think more of a rainbow. This is not just skin color but different representation from geographical locations, socio-economic backgrounds, and even persons with different physical abilities or lack thereof. 

Noelle Silver inspired me to think this way after I spoke with her on the Sound In Marketing podcast. It inspired me to write this article; Developer Diversity in AI Creates The Best Product.

No short catchphrase for you here. Only that there is work to be done, and so people just need to start working harder at it.”

“I will try to see past my comfortable norm and seek out bigger perspectives always. #BreakTheBias” 

Keri Roberts

Brand Evangelist, Readspeaker.ai
@kerinroberts

“Be proactive. I think it all starts with each person expanding their network of people and getting to know people outside their typical circle. Sometimes the type of person you need at your company is someone different from others on your team, and their skill set will help improve the organization. 

We all, every single one of us, have or will experience moments of unconscious bias, but it’s important to first create awareness, and second, to ask questions, do research, and get curious. At the end of the day, it should be about the person’s work, and the compensation should reflect the effort and results that the individual put forth. 

But if you look around and find your organization lacking a mix of people in terms of ethnicities, genders, ages, and backgrounds, it’s time to make a proactive effort to expand your network and find people you may not know or initially would consider for a role.  Having people who do great work and showcase a mix of backgrounds also creates better products and consumer experiences because the world is a diverse mix of people.”

“I will continue to speak up for myself and others and challenge bias. #BreakTheBias” 

Shyamala Prayaga

Conversational AI and Deep Learning, NVIDIA
Founder, Digital Assistant Academy 
@sprayaga

“Voice-first companies should foster diversity by adopting a balanced mindset. The moment one has a balanced mindset, there is no chance for bias of any sort, and automatically diversity, equity, and inclusiveness will follow. For example, regardless of gender, age, and ability, pay equally. 

Regardless of roles and responsibilities, hire equally by being mindful that the gender mismatch does not exist. I see such a huge gap in females in leadership roles. It’s like 1 in 30. There is a clear mismatch. Voice-first companies should be proactive in their approach by fostering diversity in any shape or form.”

“I will always follow a balanced mindset to break the bias and bring more inclusiveness and diversity. #BreakTheBias” 

Elaine Anzaldo

Multimodal Designer & Conversational UX, NLX
@elaineinthebay

“The first thing to realize is that different groups of people use language differently. It’s been called out many times. Voice AI needs more diverse inputs to reflect the kind of conversations that happen today across the world. We see comedy sketches of voice-first devices that fail to understand non-American English accents, or we read the research that shows popular ASR systems have higher word error rates for one racial group over another. 

I appreciate the work being done to combat this bias and see real steps toward action that would tackle these issues in the long term. In the shorter term, we can also strive to make our outputs more reflective of our huge and diverse communicative world. It’s a huge responsibility to ask for only one or two designers on a team to represent a vast array of users. Conversational AI companies should look to hire more diverse design voices. This would help move the industry toward more scalable conversation design and balance how much conversation designers ingrain their own personal conversational styles into their dialogue writing.”

“I will pay it forward and strive to give more voices a chance to contribute to conversation design. #BreakTheBias” 

Sarah Andrew Wilson

Chief Content Officer, Matchbox.io
@SarahAndrewWils

“1) Actively recruit and hire a diverse team. Reach out to organizations like Women in Voice to find talent (we did so at Matchbox and found a couple of terrific team members). The Harvard Business Review has an article that links to multiple research studies demonstrating that diverse teams are smarter, more effective, and bring in higher financial returns than homogeneous teams. It’s just good business sense to have a truly diverse team.

2) Make salaries transparent. Put the salary in your job description, so everyone knows what the position pays. This helps to remove the employer’s implicit bias during negotiations, which has historically led to women being grossly underpaid for doing the same work as their male colleagues.”

“I will continue my practice of recruiting and hiring to build diverse teams, and I will call out organizations that don’t list salaries in their job postings. #BreakTheBias”

Dr. Joan Palmiter Bajorek

CEO and Founder, Women in Voice
Head of Partnerships, Netavox
Sr. Researcher, Conversational AI Expert
@JoanBajorek

“Hire and retain women and BIPOC folks. Evaluate compensation packages horizontally and vertically in org charts and make changes if racial and gender bias exists.”

“I will champion women’s careers, pay transparency and equity, and female entrepreneurship. #BreakTheBias”

Want to get involved? The Women in Voice 2022 Global Summit is April 4-7th. Tickets are free and can be registered here. Donations are accepted through PayPal here.

Brooke Hawkins

Conversation Designer
Product Manager, MyPlanet
@brookebhawkins

“Voice-first companies can #BreakTheBias by investing in training for underrepresented groups, encouraging workplace cultures that value diversity of thought and perspective, and investing in research that prioritizes the voice and expertise of the communities their product serves.” 

“I will #BreakTheBias by continuing to share my knowledge and expertise with students interested in breaking into the voice-first and conversational space and by constantly learning and ensuring that I’m seeking out diverse perspectives in all that I do.” 

Kesha Williams

Sr. Principal, Slalom
@KeshaWillz

“Voice-first companies can make the workplace more diverse, equitable, and inclusive by building an environment that celebrates authenticity and fosters a culture where every voice is heard, welcomed, and respected.”

“I will be my authentic self in every environment and empower others to do the same. #BreaktheBias”

Pledges from the authors

Karen Scates

Director of Content Marketing, SoundHound

“I will continue to find ways to hire, nurture, and mentor women and empower them with empathy and a focus on mental health wellness in the workplace to #BreakTheBias”

Kristen Stephens

Content Marketing Writer, SoundHound

I will continue to write articles championing equality, diversity, and inclusion in voice AI, supporting the LGBTQ community, and speaking up when I see bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. #BreakTheBias”

A journey toward equality in voice AI and beyond

Breaking the bias will not happen overnight, but with awareness and conversation, we will continue to take steps toward it. For the voice AI community, we need to look at our workplaces, examine the data we feed our training models, and how our voice assistants respond to questions. Let’s celebrate women’s achievements and promote women in STEM. Together, we can #BreakTheBias. 

Interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion in voice AI? Check out these articles:

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore SoundHound’s independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account here. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

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