During the corona pandemic, many companies have switched to working from home. This means that meetings and consultations mainly take place digitally. A new study from the University of Magdeburg shows that this puts women at a disadvantage compared to their male colleagues. Women’s voices are perceived as less expressive, competent and charismatic than men’s during videoconferencing.
Junior professor Ingo Siegert, together with his Danish colleague Oliver Niebuhr from the University of Sønderborg, investigated how various online meeting tools transfer voices, such as Zoom, Skype or Teams. They found that not all parts and frequencies of what is said are transmitted through the Internet connection. This is to limit the data volume.
“Digital meetings severely limit the reach and richness of non-verbal communication signals, for both men and women,” explains Siegert. But especially with women’s voices, the emotional component comes across less well.
The two scientists asked test listeners about their impressions of recorded voices. Professional voice actors recorded samples to be rated on a scale of one to ten. Female voices scored significantly lower on this scale. The emotional component that makes someone come across as charismatic was missing from the female speakers.
Better compression methods
“We have now been able to demonstrate and measure the effect in concrete terms. This new knowledge gives us the opportunity to make adjustments,” says Siegert. In the future, tools should not only pay attention to the pure speech quality and intelligibility, but also to other characteristics, such as the transmission of expression and emotion, the researcher recommends.
“Good compression methods should not only ensure stable connections in the future. In an era where sales, customer acquisition, business management and even political decision-making are handled through digital communication tools, they need to ensure both good visual and acoustic quality that also reflects how something is said.”
The human voice is extremely important to convince someone, says Siegert. “Especially because video meetings often take place under sub-optimal lighting and environmental conditions.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider Deutschland.
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