Deeper-voiced CEOs more successful

May 13 2013 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Although biological economics is a relatively new field of research, it regularly throws up some interesting insights into the foibles of human behaviour in corporate environments. For example, it's long been known that height plays a role in how much you earn, with research suggesting that each every extra inch of height can be worth an extra $1,000 a year in wages, even when education and experience are taken into account.

Conversely, being overweight can have an adverse effect on your wallet, with a 2007 European study finding that for every 10 per cent increase in body mass index, a man loses 3.27 per cent in earnings, and a woman 1.86 per cent.

But it seems it isn't just size that matters. Vocal tone has an impact on your earning potential, too. According to researchers from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and University of California at San Diego, male CEOs with deeper voices tend to manage larger companies, make more money and be stay in their jobs longer than their more reedy-voiced colleagues.

The research examined speech samples for 792 CEOs from the Standard and Poor's 1500 stock index and analysed the voices to determine vocal pitch. The pitch levels were then cross-referenced with data on the total assets managed by the CEO, their compensation and how long they had worked for their current company. It also considered influences like age, education and other physical masculinity markers from face and voice.

The results suggested that CEOs with lower voices manage larger companies and, in turn, make more money. Specifically, the analysis found a decrease in voice pitch of 22.1 Hertz (Hz) meant an increase in firm size of $440 million (£285 m) , which translated into higher compensation of $187,000 (£120,000) a year.

CEOs with lower voices also seem to be retained longer by their companies. The analysis found the same 22.1 Hz decrease in pitch meant a CEO's tenure would be about 151 days longer.

"These findings suggest that the effects of a deep voice are salient even for the upper echelons of management in Corporate America," said Fuqua Professor Mohan Venkatachalam.

"It wasn't clear to us going in that voice pitch would convey any meaningful information about a CEO given the extent to which boards of directors screen CEOs as part of the hiring and compensation decisions, " he added.

While the researchers pointed out that it isn't altogether surprising that success in biological competition is also associated with success in the competition for top corporate employment, they also acknowledged that biological economics are only one a small part of a far more complex picture.

"Corporate leaders are exceedingly complex and not easily summarized, be it by scale, tape measure or microphone," the paper says.