Study: Vocal fry may cost women jobs

People with perfectly normal voices who, for unexplained reasons, talk with a creaky voice — vocal fry, it’s called — are creaking themselves right out of a job, a study says today.

Public radio, in particular, has an epidemic of people with vocal fry, the Washington Post notes in its story today. That’s Ira Glass’ legacy, perhaps.

And the new study says women are less likely to get a job if they don’t talk correctly.

The researchers recorded seven women between the ages of 19 and 27 and seven men aged 20 to 30 saying “thank you for considering me for this opportunity” in both their normal tone of voice and in vocal fry. Eight-hundred participants then listened to the recordings online and rated how competent, trustworthy, educated and attractive the voices sounded to them — and how willing they’d be to hire each person.

Attractiveness was included with the other characteristics an employer might consider because some have argued that women use vocal fry to obtain the benefits of low-pitched speech generally associated with males, such as perceptions of social dominance and leadership capacity while retaining their femininity.

The results showed women, more so than men, are perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive and less hirable when they use vocal fry. The negative perceptions of women who use vocal fry are even stronger when the listener is also a woman. “Collectively, these results suggest young American women should avoid vocal fry in order to maximize labor market perceptions, particularly when being interviewed by another woman,” the researchers concluded.

Why do people talk with a vocal fry if it’s hurting job chances? Researchers said it may have social benefits.