International Women’s Day – why choose a Female Voiceover?

Happy International Women’s Day.. A day to remember to celebrate women and their acheivements – even more than we usually should, every day.

Voiceover is one of those jobs that, despite the times, does still seem to divide voices into Male and Female (MVO and FVO).. I am gradually seeing more non-binary requests for voices getting out there, which is a good start.

To celebrate International FVO, err.. Women’s Day.. I wanted to explore a couple of features of the female voice and how you can use a FVO to your advantage as a business, brand or content maker.

Traditionally, FVOs were heard on domestic products and services.. think baby products, hygiene and detergent. Not that this is a bad thing – I’m writing this as someone who has voiced for ALL of these products!

A few years ago (not as many as you’d think) it would have been pretty unusual to hear a FVO on, for example, a car commercial. These were generally the domain of the man’s man MVO.. now brands recognise this is a little dated.. guess what women can buy cars too. But listen today and I think most are female voices!

I am just as likely these days to be voicing a script about oil rigs, nuclear power, major infrastructure, financial markets and technology. In fact, I probably do more of these! The FVO can be used to make these sorts of genres feel maybe more human, accessible and relatable. But I think there is more going on than this.. the FVO can bring a huge level of power.. using a female voice in these cases reflects on the brands and their values, their inclusivity (or otherwise?) and their understanding of the power and gravitas within the female spirit and heritage. Smart move.

Also, Ad agencies recognise that not only do women buy big ticket items and we relate very strongly to hearing FVO, also, if it’s a joint decision, we are very influential (!) and also that men can be influenced by a carefully played female read script.

IMHO, The FVO is naturally less “salesy” and where those hard sell ads were all the rage a few years back, it was seldom a female doing the selling… it’s harder to get someone to buy if you are hard selling at them. Maybe as consumers, we are a bit weary of having a man barking at us on ads?

Male VO performances are now usually a bit softer, if you take a listen, the scripts and briefs demand it more..

But is this more to do with our understanding of the words and less to do with the quality of the voice?

Voice Coach Nic Redman gave me this insight

Women’s voices can be soft and gentle they can be powerful and strong they can be angry and aggressive, They can be funny and flirty and proud and cheeky and honest and inquisitive and all things in between. Only when we re-focus on the words that women are saying rather than the tone the quality of their voice, do we really celebrate everything that women have to offer vocally. Voice isn’t just about how it sounds to you or how it makes you feel as a listener it’s about how the words affect you and inspire you.

Nic Redman

What I find interesting here is that, as Nic says, maybe we have only begun to scratch the surface of what women’s voices can actually do, what haven’t we explore yet? Exciting thought.

But what about authority? Does the FVO lack the authority of the MVO when the chips are down and hard news needs to be delivered?

Again (not very) historically, the male voice was the one that was dominant on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

When I started in radio broadcasting back in the 1990s it was openly said that people find women’s voices a bit annoying on air!! WHAAAT? Times have changed and radio schedules and news booths are now more equally populated.

In terms of the world of gaming and fantasy, female and female identifying characters are integral and often powerful. Power and determination can come through a lighter voice perhaps more effectively than through a booming, big voice – sorry Brian Blessed.

Ultimately FVO and F identifying VO, in all it’s range is the way to go for reaching markets and audiences that will respond to a female (or f identifying) voice. It’s the choice of the brand, informed by their market. But it’s more than gender – it’s WORDS we give to voices to say..

Here’s Nic Redman again:

We need to re-focus on what women are saying rather than how it sounds or how that sound makes you feel. This International woman’s Day listen to the words and not the voice. And if you’re a female speaker remember that your voice doesn’t have to sound one particular way. It can have all the emotional qualities that you need in order to communicate what you have to say and what is important to you within the environment that you have to speak.

Nic Redman

The power of a FVO, as a tool to reach people in whatever form is massive.. tied up with the tone of voice, the authority, the warmth, the coolness; is the legacy of being female itself. The strength of being female, the history of triumph and progress, of recognition of our own power in spite of everything.

Now let’s give the words to those voices, so we can focus on the content and delivering it as ourselves, our authentic female and female identifying selves,

For me, this is the power of a female voiceover. Use it well.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Clare X

With thanks to Nic Redman for her contributions. Please check out her superb work, – coaching everyone with a voice to use it well, safely and effectively with authenticity and expertise. She’s one heck of woman worth celebrating!