A new study published in US journal PLOS One has reported that young American women could be severely hampering their job prospects. At interview, many of them are seen as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive, and ultimately less hirable than others. Why? Because they’re trying to sound like Kim Kardashian.
The imitation game
It’s a relatively new phenomenon, but ‘vocal fry’ has spread like wildfire amongst young Americans, especially women. Back in 2011 a study showed that two-thirds of female college students were already using it and it has started making its way into the world of work.
Vocal fry is that annoying, drawling, creaky, bored-sounding tone of voice associated with the Kardashians. For more of an idea of what we’re talking about, have a listen to the examples here:
A social disease?
This style of speaking is thought to be a subconscious attempt to fit in with others, as many women under 30 identify this style of speaking with popularity and other positive associations. There may be something to say for this point of view – after all many of the practitioners of the vocal fry trend tend to be successful, media-savvy women who have made a lot of money from their image (Britney Spears, Ke$ha and Katy Perry, for example).
However, in the real world, women who talk using ‘vocal fry’ are less likely to be successful in job interviews (it seems to mostly apply to women who use vocal fry rather than men) and this negative perception skyrockets when the interviewer is also a woman.
Vocal ticks are not a new phenomena - in the 90s, the big one was ‘uptalk’. You know? The habit of sounding like you’re talking in sentences? Even when you’re not?
This particular tick had the effect of making the speaker appear nervous and less confident as well as seeming younger and less authoritative. However, vocal fry is seen by millennials as displaying confidence and accomplishment.
In studies, it has been shown that young women are often the group most likely to spread vocal trends. However, there has been criticism in the press of double standards when it comes to the male/female divide.
In this interview, Stanford linguistics professor Penny Eckert had this to say: “It makes me really angry. And it makes me angry, first of all, because the biggest users of vocal fry traditionally have been men, and it still is; men in the UK, for instance. And it's considered kind of a sign of hyper-masculinity ... and by the same token, uptalk, it's clear that in some people's voices that has really become a style, but it has been around forever and people use it stylistically in a variety of ways — both men and women.”
Jumping through hoops
In a job market where women are already competing with their peers, not to mention more experienced or younger candidates as well as gender/racial discrimination and the basic, everyday judging of accent, clothes, hair, makeup (or lack of it) and shoes, they now have to add ‘tone of voice’ to that ever-growing list.
Would you hire someone who speaks like a Kardashian? Is it really such a big deal? Or should decision-makers be looking past how people speak?
Have your say below…