Soul legend Barry White Wikimedia Commons
At least in an abstract sense, many people associate a deep voice with authority, power, and seriousness. Exactly the things one would expect or hope for in a CEO.
A new study, “Voice Pitch Predicts Labor Market Success among Male Chief Executive Officers” from William J. Mayew and Mohan Venkatachalam of Duke University, and Christopher Parsons of UC San Diego, takes a look at the voice pitches of CEOs of large public companies, and found this to be true.
A CEO’s voice that becomes lower by a 1% decrease in the pitch correlates with $30 million more in assets for the company they manage, and a $19,000 increase in their salary.
Those on the deepest end of the voice scale run companies that have $440 million more in assets and earn some $187,000 more. Deeper-voiced CEOs were also found to stay at their jobs longer.
The average CEO in the study comes in at 125.5 Hz, which is about average for an adult male. By way of comparison, James Earl Jones, famously the voice of Darth Vader, has a voice pitched at around 85 Hz.
The effect is more pronounced when a CEO has more decision-making power or discretion, and was separate from experience, education, and age.
It’s easy to be skeptical about the idea. But it turns out there’s a fundamental biological advantage to having a deep voice. Women find deep-voiced men more attractive, they father more children, and they’re viewed as more socially and physically dominant.
There’s not much you can do to change the natural pitch of your voice, but it might be worth curbing a tendency to speak higher or faster when excited, and try to speak slower and lower.