Deeper Voice, Higher Salary. Are Women Screwed?


Forbes reported this week that CEOs with deeper voices make about $187,000 more a year than those with higher voices, and they also keep their jobs five months longer. The study that prompted the article was done by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business Development. I’m going to refrain from making juvenile jokes about Fuqua–but you know what I’m thinking. A similar study last year found voters prefer political candidates with deeper voices.

Hey There.

Hey Forbes. It’s true. James Earl Jones has a magnificent voice. But given that only 1.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are black, do you think maybe you could mention something about that in the article? Isn’t your choice just a little ironic?

The not-revolutionary but still-a-bummer-nonetheless finding that CEOs with deeper voices make more money and keep their jobs longer begs some obvious questions. Are women screwed? Does it mean that black men with a deep voice are more likely to do well or is a deep voice not even on the radar given the race issue? And what about black women?

Well, it turns out the intersection of race and gender with voice pitch was not addressed. Why? According to the Forbes article, there aren’t enough women CEOs to study; it doesn’t even address race, but since there are fewer black CEOs (of any sex) than women, I think we have the answer.

Here are some statistics (from 2012) on diversity in Fortune 500 companies:

  • 6 black CEOs (1.2%)
  • 7 asian CEOs (1.4%)
  • 6 latino CEOs (1.2%)
  • 21 women CEOs (4.2%)

Remember. This is out of FIVE HUNDRED companies. NOTE: I do realize that this is not an exhaustive list of under-represented groups, but I think these numbers illustrate the point. 

I’m pretty sure the researchers would say this: the purpose of the study was voice pitch, but it did raise some interesting questions for future study. And I think they’re right.

But if we just stick with voice depth, where does this leave the ladies? Can we assume the study results even apply to women? Are those of us who are ambitious enough to want to be CEOs or politicians supposed to take voice lessons like Margaret Thatcher did?

OOOH: new business idea–deep-voice lessons for ladies (and also men with higher voices because we don’t want to exclude anyone).

I actually question how well voice-lessons would work for women. When a woman does have a deep voice, what do we most often say? Yup. We say it sounds “SEXY.” Which could well backfire in any setting, let alone a corporate one. Dagnabbit.

Funny, though, that they never said that about Maggie T…

Anyway, Devon, don’t let studies like this be an excuse to not set your goals high.

First, it’s a study of the present state in a small subgroup of people; keep in mind the information does not have to dictate how things could be or will be one day. To get where they are, corporate CEOS are rewarded for acting a certain way–like any group. The information might also not be applicable to other groups – like people working in a non-profit environment. Or in the arts. Or in universities.

Second, you may decide you don’t want to be a corporate CEO. Honestly, I don’t know many people who do–corporate CEOs generally don’t have time to socialize or ride their bikes or play Mine Craft, even if they do bring home bag-loads of money (more so, of course, the deep-voiced ones).

Third, if you want to be successful, use your own definition of success, not the unspoken one here.

I love you Munchkin. And good job at your softball game today 🙂

Thank f'ing god for Title IX.

Holy Cow: so grateful for Title IX.

 Note: I’m looking at the title of this post, Lower Voice, Higher Salary. Are Women Screwed?, and trying to come up with an alternative to the screwed part. I mean, really, given the women’s issues in this article, I chose to write that? 

Anyway, if you have any better alternatives that don’t involve a sports analogy I’d welcome them. I did think of “are women up the creek without a paddle?” But that just doesn’t work as well.


By Tracey March

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