New research shows that women participate more in meetings and share more ideas when they work with an AI agent with a female voice.

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A new study shows that an AI teammate speaking in a female voice increases women’s participation at work and increases their productivity.

Researchers from Cornell University in the US assigned 180 men and women to groups of three and asked them to collaborate virtually on tasks.

The fourth member of the team, an AI agent with a male or female voice, talked to them and gave them instructions. Participants then became minority or majority team members based on gender.

Angel Hsing-Chi Hwang, a postdoctoral fellow in computer science and lead author of the study, fed ChatGPT-generated lines that participants saw into the bot.

“Hiring a new person to fill out the team in real time is unrealistic,” Hwang said in a statement.

“Our thought was: What if we had AI agents on demand that could participate and hopefully positively change the team dynamic?”

All teams had two tasks: one brainstorming session on environmental protection ideas, and the other where they had to review profiles for job opportunities and decide who to promote.

Team conversation chats were analyzed to see how often each person presented ideas or arguments.

Study participants also completed two post-task surveys to assess the level of support offered, their experience with the team, and whether they felt marginalized by a group member or bot.

Hwang found that minority women in a particular group were more likely to participate in activities when the AI ​​voice was female, and reported more positive feelings toward their AI teammate when they were the majority.

“Women were usually quite quiet when they were the only team members… but when there was a female agent of the same gender on the team, they contributed many more ideas to team discussions,” Hwang said.

The study continued when men were in the minority with the male-sounding bot, they were more talkative but less focused on tasks.

“By using only gender-sensitive voice, the AI ​​agent can provide a small degree of support to minority women in the group,” Hwang said.

“We often feel more at ease and therefore work better in teams with people who are similar to us.”

Hwang said their research opens questions for further research into how workplaces can support workers who have long been marginalized by creating artificial intelligence agents.

The study only touches on the “tip of the iceberg” related to people’s gender perceptions in the workplace, Hwang continued, and future research could consider examining how outcomes change for people who do not identify as male or female.