Ninety percent of online virtual characters, or avatars, are women… Could it be that virtual females are just better than their male counterparts, or are most uses for avatars today better suited as female representations? Justine Plessier, Project Director at Cantoche, provides some answers in this article.
Justine graduated with a Masters degree in Management. Following graduate school Justine worked at Havas Interactive and led the editorial, media, and Human Factors development of numerous multimedia projects, including the Multimedia Larousse Encyclopedia. She has over 10 years experience managing multimedia projects. Justine joined Cantoche in 2001 and leads the Professional Services staff and coordinates the implementation of Living Actor™ solutions from early conceptual stages to final delivery.
Attractive young woman wanted for Website…
Online assistant or Customer Relationship manager between the ages of 25-35 wanted. Senior position available for youthful applicant without wrinkles! Applicant must have intercultural appeal, be 5’6”tall, –have excellent looks and manners – be dynamic, yet calm, and must never lose her patience. The perfect applicant is nice, has a beautiful smile, and is reassuring but not flirtatious. Brunette preferred. Must be attractive and feminine, but not too much… The applicant should have a sense of humor, but always be very professional. A timeless and fashionable look is desired and includes a modern, neat hairstyle. The applicant should have a short first name ending with an “A” (e.g. Clara, Anna, Marta, Emma, Laura, Lea, Lisa).
Today, many companies hire young women of a new and different kind: virtual assistants for Websites. You probably can’t imagine a Wanted Ad such as the one above being real, but these are common design requirements that illustrate the attention to detail that is necessary to design a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants are changing our experiences with Web content. They are capable of helping, guiding, and quickly answering your questions. They decrease the volume of calls to expensive call centers, reduce the number of questions sent by e-mail, and invite you to transform your casual visit to a website into a firm purchase. Their mission is also to attract you to the website, establish a link between you and the site, and create a trusted relationship.
Do Female avatars outrank males?
As evidence of the growing desire for this new kind of assistant, a contest for the best French virtual assistant was created 2 years ago to elect the “Miss Client” queen of the year!
In 2011, the jury had to choose among 20 virtual candidates. If you look closely at all of the candidates for Miss Client 2011, you’ll discover two men in the competition, both specialists for bank loans and employee savings. Not only were the males outnumbered, but also they did not even get close to the prize.
Lucie, SFR’s virtual assistant was awarded first prize, following in the virtual footsteps of Emma, a virtual assistant for MMA, in 2010. But don’t expect to see them in a swimsuit competition, you’d be disappointed! The evaluation criteria were solely based on their professionalism. 😉 Just try to ask them for their personal e-mail and you’ll see…
Virtual assistants… sure… but not for finance?
These young women support your online activity for various topics including health, beauty, consumer goods, orders, delivery issues, or technical subjects… but not usually money. Why is that?
On the Web, the field of financial expertise is nearly exclusively entrusted to virtual guys, such as Thomas at Natixis Interépargne Bank. What?! How can it be that online, young women are not perceived to be credible to talk about “big bucks”? Virtual and real feminists, it is time to rise up and fight!
More than a pretty face…
In summary, these young women have a challenging mission: they have to fit men and women’s expectations and preconceived ideas, build relationships based on trust, and have the ability to be liked.
They do not have to be top models so they don’t need to be too beautiful or too sexy; nor should they be too young since they need to be perceived as credible (they are more than simple receptionists, and don’t you forget it!), but also they should not be more than 35 years old…
Let us hope that these “perfect employees,” who are always smiling and available for their customers, will soon be numerous enough to manage to change certain perceptions…
Thank you Justine for this very real reminder that certain stereotypes are still very strong, even in our virtual projections—it’s up to us to change this!
Do you believe that the gender or the aesthetics of avatars should be bounded by their mission?
See you soon!
This post is also available in: FRENCH