To Brits and Americans alike, Brazil seems a long way off. But a recent study from UFMG in Belo Horizonte casts a new light on women and public speaking: and it’s making waves beyond South America.
Women get a raw deal from their voices. Anatomical odds are stacked against them. The higher pitch range of the female voice means their vocal folds have to work harder to do the same work as a man’s. It makes the female voice vulnerable to misuse - and they outnumber men in voice clinics as a result.
It doesn’t stop there. The UFMG’s research is beginning to confirm that women tend to feel more nervous than men about speaking in public.
Researchers from the Department of Speech-language Pathology and Audiology conducted a survey of 1,135 undergraduate students on public speaking. Similar to other studies in the US, “As many as 63.9% of the undergraduates reported fear of public speaking.” So far, so expected - polls in national newspapers regularly rate public speaking as scarier than death.
But there was a discrepancy between men and women’s reactions to speaking. 68.6% of women surveyed said they had a fear of public speaking, compared to 53% of men.
It’s easy to see from the research what’s causing the fear. 68% of those who reported a fear of speaking had a negative perception of their voice. They thought it was too high-pitched (47%)*, too quiet (29%)*, too nasal or hoarse. This is simple, really. If you don’t think your voice is good enough, you won’t want to speak in public.
And this is particularly true for women. The researchers say that “limited loudness—ie, lack of voice volume— suggests insecurity, fear, and introversion when speaking.” Nobody wants to be the one who no-one takes seriously. And the study shows that most women feel like their voices let them down.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. If you feel like your voice is getting in your way, get in touch to book a session with a VoiceHacker vocal coach. Whether you speak a little too quietly, have a high-pitched voice, or struggle with confidence, we’ve got a programme for you. Book your lesson here.
* Percentages taken as a proportion of those who reported a negative perception of their voice, which was 63% of all respondents.