Voice Tone, Perception, and Salary

Researchers at UCLA and Duke University's Fuqua School of Business are discovering how voice tone affects careers.

In a Duke study, researchers found, "Women exhibiting a lowtched, creaky voice known as 'vocal fry' are considered less competent, educated, trustworthy, attractive, and hirable."

In a UCLA study, researchers found that charismatic leaders use their voice to their advantage. While some characteristics of charisma are in-born, others can be developed.

Acoustic scientist Rosario Signorella, interviewed by in a Wall Street Journal article, emphasized a leader's ability to manipulate his or her voice:

"My research shows that charismatic leaders of any type in any culture tend to stretch their voice to the lower and higher limits during a public speech, which is the most important and risky context of communication for leadership. . . . The voice is a tool that can be trained. Singers and actors train their voices to reach higher or lower frequencies. A leader-speaker should do the same."

A related Duke study analyzed 792 male CEOs in major companies and found that those with lower voices made more money, managed larger firms, and stayed in their CEO positions longer.

Discussion Starters:

  • Why would male CEOs with lower voices enjoy such positive career outcomes? What's at play here?
  • The UCLA study and second Duke study included only males. What, if any, conclusions might be drawn for women?