Have you ever wondered what kind of voices powerful women have? While a recent study revealed that many male CEOs tend to possess deeper tones, does the same apply to empowered females? Do they also strive for a deep bass like James Earl Jones, or is something else at play here?

Contrary to expectations, a study of 10 female business leaders reveals that their voices are actually closer in pitch to the average for all women. This was determined by comparing Quantified Impressions’ database containing 423 female participants. Among those included were prominent figures such as PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Facebook COO, author Sheryl Sandberg, and Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer–powerful individuals who paved the way for many others seeking success within their respective fields.

[Related: 14 Sheryl Sandberg Quotes on Women, Work, and Careers]

According to the study, it isn’t only about making a loud and deep sound while speaking but also centered on how much vigor these women exhibit in their words. As reported by The Wall Street Journal:

“Women leaders stand out on another measure—the amount of “vocal energy,” or variations in loudness, they use to drive home their points, the study shows. An energetic voice comes across to listeners as authentic, inspiring trust, says Carrie Goldberger, a research analyst with Quantified Impressions. And vocal energy is easily controlled by the speaker, providing ambitious people with a ready tool for advancement.

“Researchers define vocal energy as variations in loudness, amplitude, or intensity of a speaker’s voice. A speaker who often shifts from loud to soft tones tends to capture listeners’ interest and to come across as more passionate than one who speaks in a monotone.”

When you are self-assured, your voice radiates with power and conviction. Just listen to Sheryl Sandberg during our Office Hours event – each word carries an extra emphasis and strength of delivery. Conversely, when we experience a lack of confidence or nervousness in ourselves, it will be reflected in the tone of our words, making this a common challenge many women have to tackle on their journey toward success.

Just because a woman doesn’t sound like Darth Vader does not mean she must exaggerate her ‘girly’ voice. To better understand this concept, think of Kim Kardashian’s speech patterns – cooing and giggling diminish one’s power significantly. In fact, Margaret Thatcher had to take elocution lessons at the National Theatre to achieve success during her election campaign; despite having naturally high-pitched vocals which were far from babyish or girlish.

Kimberly Friedmutter, a Neuro-linguistics expert, has defined the girly voice as an effective tool for communicating with one’s brain. As she puts it:

“When a woman, generally small in stature (or wants to be), uses a baby-esque voice, she seriously diminishes her chances of career success! Subconsciously, this is her plan. One hundred percent of the time, when I delve deeper, I find that these particular women don’t REALLY want to be in business. They really want to experience vulnerability with a man, and her voice is her vehicle. ‘Baby talk worked with daddy; it’ll work with hubby.’ The problem is that one is heard as fake, phony, disconnected, etc.… as opposed to the desired result of being vulnerable, delicate, dainty, and feminine. It’s a societal ‘miss’ and generally backfires.

“One could look at Marilyn Monroe as the perfect iconic example. Some may say that this vocal presentation was successful. She was known as the ultimate female. However, one could look at her life as one of tragedy and manipulation by men. When the manipulator was, of course, Norma Jean and Marilyn Monroe were the choice methods. When I see clients, the vocal and tone conversation is one of our first. A woman who looks feminine can afford to use her ‘real’ voice because it creates a very interesting dynamic. When a woman doesn’t appear feminine, it’s even more important she aligns with her real voice so that her inner effectiveness is experienced. Can you imagine Hillary Clinton whispering her way through speeches coyly? Never!”

The sugary-sweet tone may be suitable for getting drinks or maintenance requests but it won’t do you any favors when seeking career advancement. Just take a look at where ‘girly’ got Paris Hilton… nowhere!

Have you ever adjusted the pitch of your voice to create a certain impression? Let us know in the comments below!

Unlock the secrets to success for female leaders and discover Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer at Levo League!

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