PRM / Women do worse than men in video conferencing – their voices make them seem incompetent

    Pressemeddelelse fra Syddansk Universitet

    The use of video conferencing has exploded during the corona crisis. Schoolchildren, teachers and virtually all companies use either Zoom, Teams or Skype. It is easy, efficient, and smooth, but a study by SDU and the University of Magdeburg shows that it is a disadvantage for women, as their voices can be perceived as less expressive, competent and charismatic than men's voices.

    This is because despite the huge amount of data transmitted in connection with a video conference, it is compressed audio that does not manage to transmit all frequencies and details in the spoken language. And it affects women more than men, the study shows.

    Behind the study is Oliver Niebuhr, associate professor at the Center for Industrial Electronics at SDU in Sønderborg, and assistant professor Ingo Siegert from the University of Magdeburg.

    "You can compare it to a sandwich. When you compress sound, you remove something. If we take a traditional Club Sandwich, then in the case of men, maybe a little salad disappears because their voice position is in a certain frequency range. Because women's voices are on a different frequency, more disappears; maybe dressing, salad and dressing, so that in the end there is only bread and chicken left," says Oliver Niebuhr.

    Important in negotiation situation

    And bread and chicken can be boring, which is certainly not good in an important meeting or a possible negotiation situation.

    "If you want to convince a person of something, then it is essential that you appear charismatic. You need to have that person's full attention. Our voice is extremely important in that context - especially in a context where body language is taken out of the equation, as is the case in a video meeting, "says Oliver Niebuhr.

    The worse the internet, the worse it gets
    At a time when not only education, trades, business agreements, but also political agendas are handled via digital communication media, there is a need for technology to improve. Because it does not matter that Mette Frederiksen is behind on points even before she enters a negotiation.

    "Now it is the case that the worse the internet you sit on, the more compressed the sound becomes. I assume that the Danish Prime Minister has a good internet connection, so I do not want to worry that much is lost in this context. But with the knowledge we have gained with this study, it opens for adjustments," says Oliver Niebuhr.

    The technology needs to be improved
    Oliver Niebuhr says that the developers of video conferencing programs have focused on the extent to which users have been able to understand the words that are being said. That is, how clearly the words are transmitted.

    "Not all codecs make women appear less charismatic, but in the future, there should be more focus on the details that are essential in our communication. The small nuances."


    Oliver Niebuhr
    Associate Professor of Communication & Innovation
    Founder of AllGoodSpeakers ApS
    Head of the CIE Acoustics Lab
    CIE - Center for Industrial Electronics
    Tel. +45 6550 7649
    Mobile +49 1577 475 333 2

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