As someone fairly new to the working world, I have spent the past six months learning how to present myself in an office setting so I am considered professional, confident and knowledgeable. Something I hadn’t considered before is the power of voice pitch. This past week, I began reading studies about the effect the pitch of a woman’s voice can have on how she is perceived in a business environment and I am intrigued by the findings.
Researchers and anthropologists espouse that, at least historically, a deep voice in a male equated to a “dominant” and strong male and was generally considered by females to be an asset. While that made sense to me, I wondered why that would have any bearing on the workplace in the 21st century.
Well, a 2012 study examined 792 male public-company CEOs and found on average, the CEOs with deeper voices managed larger companies and (no surprise here) made more money. How’s that for impact? And what does that mean for those of us who are not gifted with a baritone voice?
Continuing with the science of anthropology, it is also believed that, historically, women were more “desirable” if they had higher voices. Since estrogen raises a woman’s voice, a higher voice indicated fertility to men – an aspect that was attractive to men (from an evolutionary perspective).
However, since a woman’s fertility is not often what she is trying to broadcast in the working world, how does her voice pitch affect her in a corporate setting?
In the study, “Preference for Leaders with Masculine Voices Holds in the Case of Feminine Leadership Roles,” both men and women proved more likely to elect a woman to a leadership position when she had a lower voice – even when she would be the leader of an all-female group. The study concluded women with lower voices are more likely to be favored in a corporate environment, especially in a leadership role.
So what does this mean for women? As a young woman just entering the business world (with a somewhat soft and higher voice) is it fair that I should be at a disadvantage just because of the tone of my voice?
I struggled with accepting these findings but when I step back to examine, I know that when I am most confident, my voice is deeper. When women (myself included) feel insecure, our voices are often shaky and high-pitched. By favoring a deeper female voice in the office, I believe people are identifying that with someone who is knowledgeable, assertive and confident. Additionally, since voice deepens with age, the preference for a leader with a lower voice correlates with favoring an older, more experienced leader.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the lower pitch attraction, it seems that the preference does exist in the corporate setting. Does this mean women should learn how to change their voices? Can you accept this? Would you be willing to alter your voice to potentially gain more respect as a working woman? Let me know what you think!
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