Are you a woman? Do you have a voice? Odds are, you’re doing it wrong,
And it’s probably costing you a promotion, better money, and the respect of your colleagues.
This week’s podcast is about women’s voices, in their squeaky, high pitched glory. It’s about how people respond to them, what judgements we make and what happens when people try to change them.
We’re pretty much experts on the topic, since all three of us – Mia Freedman, Sarah Macdonald and me – all have one. And at some point, all three of us have variously been told we sound too girly/too young/too blonde/not authoritative enough/not believable enough.
Mia Freedman even had voice training during her time in TV. Network bosses couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with her voice. They just thought it sounded a bit wrong. Too female perhaps, blokes?
Study after study has shown that people prefer low, masculine voices. We assume voices say something far beyond the words they convey. We perceive men with lower-pitched voices to be more attractive and physically stronger — and also more competent and more trustworthy — than their more reedy-voiced mates. And we perceive women with lower-pitched voices along the same lines.
Which is why many women in leadership roles, or political candidates, are coached to speak lower. Margaret Thatcher. Hillary Clinton. Julia Gillard. All women who have been told to change the way they speak.
Another way that we delicate females apparently undermine our authority is through uptalk; where your voice goes up at the end of a sentence, as if asking a question. Women use this inflection as a means to soften their statements but studies show the speaker is be perceived as lacking in confidence.
So… when you drop your voice, you then get what’s called vocal fry. That’s this:
Made famous by Kardashians/Katy Perry/ every reality show star ever, a study by Duke University Fuqua School of Business found that women who spoke with vocal fry were considered less employable and less trustworthy.