• Alexandra Bond Burnett

Are women adapting themselves to the boardroom?

Recently I witnessed a debate regarding whether a deep voice is required to have an effective impact in the boardroom.

Let me ask you this, how many times have you lowered your voice to get noticed? We all have our different voices, we have our telephone voices, and naturally adapt depending in if we speak with a colleague or a loved one.

A study by Harvard Law school in 2018 concluded that only 24% of directorships in the U.K. were held my women, and CEO positions were at 5%... clearly the natural surroundings are majority male voices.

The debate argued that women are having to lose authenticity to fit into a male boardroom.

But, are they?

Is even this an issue of gender?

Our natural instinct is to fit into our surroundings. We subconsciously adapt our body language, voices and behaviour based on a cocktail of preconceptions. I know I do...

But, this debate was arguing that women are giving themselves up by taking a more male voice in the room. Almost, that women victimise themselves by trying to sound like a man.

I think the point has been missed entirely. We're not victimised, we are empowering.

This isn't an issue of men over women... A deep voice isn't just male... it's animal.

The leader of the pack

Have you ever seen a mother lion protect her cub?

Or a dog tell off a pup? They roar, bark and lower their tone to make an impact.

Women, when they give birth are known to adopt a low animalistic roar when in the later stage of labour.

This isn't limited to female mammals, all animals adopt a lower tone to assert dominance and influence those around them.

Is power changing your tone?

An study on the vocal changes of women was done in Australia

Cecilia Pemberton at the University of South Australia studied the voices of two groups of Australian women from 1945 to 1991.

A huge difference was discovered. Over this timeframe, the study found that women had dropped their frequency by 23 Hz over five decades.

 However, from 1945 we saw the increase of women in the workplace, so did women copy men... or are we simply asserting our dominance?

Connect to your inner leader voice

The upshot is, regardless of the reason research tells us that to assert yourself, you need to lower your tone... but I say you have to hit the note that feels good to you.

Practicing your pitch can be a great way to discover your leadership voice. See where your voice connects best, and where others listen.

Try practicing with the phrase "pay attention" - say it as many ways as you can to see what works.

Changing your tone doesn't mean changing yourself - your voice is there to transport all the versions of you... even the dominant one.

Would you like to practice your speaking skills? Sign up to Speakbox, the weekly online group that teaches you to find your leadership voice.