A recent voice-over trend report revealed that demand for female voice is increasing. It showed that the number of new job postings for female voices is growing faster (24%) than the rate of new jobs posted for males (16%). And it’s a trend that is gaining momentum. In a traditionally male-dominated world of voice-over, why might this be happening? Will there come a time when demand for female voice exceeds that of the male voice?
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This post was updated in June 2021
Women buy more
Women don’t just buy for themselves; they also make purchasing decisions for the family and the household. In fact, women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing through a combination of buying power and influence!
This makes women the target audience for a lot of products, services and brands. Just turn on the TV or the radio; you’ll find that most of the advertising would be targeted at women.
Women also tend to listen and trust the opinions of other women; there’s an emotional connection and intimacy created by a woman just chatting with another woman (almost like friends). Women like the reliability of hearing from a person who is just like them.
Therefore, if you were pitching products and services to women, it would make sense to deliver the message in a female voice.
People in general, like and trust a female voice more
Voice can be a very important tool to instill trust. And it was found that humans can decide on traits like trustworthiness and aggressiveness with one single word.
Psychologist Phil McAleer recorded 64 different people saying “Hello” and played the voices back to listeners. He found that the higher-pitched female voices were perceived as more trustworthy because high-pitched voices hint at confidence, without being too aggressive. The least trusted voice was the most low-pitched.
The most trusted voices also dropped their voices at the end of a phrase, as this indicated certainty.
Female voices are more soothing and melodic
Soothing voices put people at ease. And when people feel comforted they are more inclined to trust.
Female voices are also more melodic; they are even processed in a different part of the brain. A University of Sheffield study found that female voices are processed in the part of the brain that processes music, while male voices are processed in the back of the brain, in an area known as the “mind’s eye”.
The sound of helpful intelligence
Female voices can be perceived as intelligent, without the domineering and commanding edge of male voices.
In terms of communications content, this works well to persuade people that while the voice-over is an expert, she is also friendly and understanding. She serves as a guide for the viewer as opposed to an authoritarian leader or a boss. For corporate videos, explainer videos, e-learning and training materials, this is perfect.
And this nurturing, helpful trait is also why most of the technology we’ve come to rely on is female-voiced.
Think of Siri and Alexa and Google Home.
Researchers say that most people, male and female tend to prefer the warmth of the female voice, even with their AI.
Female voices make users feel as if technology is being helpful; it solves their problems for them in a soothing, non-confrontational way.
Male voices can be perceived as commanding; telling users what to do instead of pointing out solutions. While people enjoy the help, they still like to maintain some illusion of control over the process, rather than simply being told what to do.
Female voices are versatile
Historically, male voices are used for male-oriented products, and vice versa. However, some marketers have discovered that it’s also interesting to use a female voice in areas seen as male-dominated.
Women’s voices are versatile in that they can appeal to women and to men.
That’s why female voices are now talking about mining, real estate, medicine, finance, and even missiles. Stereotypically, one might expect an authoritative male voice would work better. But a female voice-over provides an unexpected twist that gets an audience to truly pay attention and listen.
This is, however, not something that works the other way around. It was found that women did not actually respond well to male voices talking about female-oriented products.
And certainly, it would be odd if a male voice were to tell women all about feminine hygiene products or lipstick.
In these areas, the warm, intimate and chatty nature of a female voice, sharing opinions with other women (almost as if she were a friend), is invaluable.
Female voices are versatile (Part 2)
Women voice female roles, but adult women also have a history of voicing young males especially in long-running television animations. Famous examples would be Pokemon’s Ash (voiced by Rica Matsumoto in Japanese and Veronica Taylor in English), Bart Simpson (voiced by Nancy Cartwright), Naruto (voiced by Takeuchi Junko) and Goku (voiced by Nozawa Masako). This is a trend observed in Japanese anime as well.
The reason for this is that a real little boy’s voice will deepen when they reach puberty. If they were to voice a character in a long-running animation, their character’s voice would change as well. A female voice over artist would be able to maintain the role, in the exact same voice for as long as the show is running.
And while it is not unheard for young boys to voice a young boy character, it is usually for a more short-term project. For production purposes, it’s also much easier to find an experienced, professional voice actress than a professional young male actor.
To conclude: before making a choice, make sure to consider your project requirements.
Putting aside all trends, studies, and personal opinion, it is worthwhile to note that you should always look closely at your product, industry and target audience before making your choice of voice-over talent.
Whether it’s an audiobook, an explainer video, a movie trailer or a GPS navigation, you will benefit from looking at what you’re talking about and who you’re talking to.
While the female audience is large, a female voice may still not be the ideal choice, especially if you’re taking square aim at a male target audience.
Male voices will always have a more powerful and commanding edge than female voices. So if your product is related to cars, computers, and gadgets, a male voice-over will probably be a better option.
And while female voices are more soothing, friendly and nurturing, your product might benefit more from a weighty baritone voice to give it depth and authority.
When it comes to versatility you should consider if your brand is traditional and conservative, or fine with taking creative licenses.
Some companies may enjoy breaking from the rules, while others may want to stick to tradition and what their audience knows and expects.
You know your product and message best. So whether you ultimately choose a male or a female voice is less important than making the most compatible choice!