Are you tall enough? – by Sue Sjuve

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Here’s an interesting but short US article by Steve Tobak. I like it because it’s positive and constructive – so those of you who think that I might be having a go at tall white men, or whinging that I am not one – read on before you make up your mind!

“Most Fortune 500 CEOs are tall white males. What if you’re not … a tall white male? Does that mean you’re forever doomed to middle management? No, it doesn’t. Here’s how to overcome Tall White Male Syndrome. First, the “white” and “male” aspects of the problem are certainly well-known. The “tall” part, not so much. We have legislation that prevents discrimination by race and gender, but not by height. And the data clearly shows that height discrimination – heightism – is as real as racial and gender discrimination. According to Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, a 2005 survey of Fortune 500 CEOs turned up the following: 30 per cent of the CEOs were 6′2″ or taller, compared with only 3.9 per cent of the male population The average CEO was just under 6 feet tall, while the average American man was 5′9″ 58 per cent of the CEOs were 6 feet or taller, compared with 14.5 per cent of men Researchers have also shown a direct correlation between height and compensation: each inch of height adds about $789 in annual pay. And taller men are more likely to be married and have children.

Now, there are clearly counter examples. Take me for example. I’m short and have no children, but I’ve been married for 20 years and have had a successful career. Was I discriminated against because of my height, somewhere along the line? Honestly, I have no idea. Of course I was up for jobs against others, but whether height played a subconscious role in those decisions is as unknown to me as it probably is to the decision makers. The real question is what’s the actionable strategy here? Get elevator shoes? Stretch yourself on a rack? Well, let’s talk about that.

One blogger postulated that good-looking people have favoured careers and suggested plastic surgery as a counterstrategy. Seriously.?? Well, I’ve got a better idea. Not only do I have a strategy for short people that doesn’t involve prosthetics, surgery, or torture, but the same thing works for any bias. It’s called executive presence.

If you’ve got it, it’ll help you overcome deficiencies in other areas like height, looks, even intelligence. You can achieve executive presence by being…

1. Genuine. Open, straightforward, comfortable in your skin; no BS or sugar-coating.

2. Passionate. You love and feel strongly about what you do and how you do it.

3. Articulate. Communicate thoughts, feelings, and insights in crystal clarity and simplicity.

4. Insightful. Ability to boil complex factors and mounds of data down to rare conclusions.

5. Determined. Driven and full of purpose, determined to achieve and succeed.

6. Confident. Not overconfident, but with enough self-doubt to be objective.

7. Humble. Willingness to admit mistakes, misjudgement, fear, and uncertainty is endearing.

8. Courageous. Willingness to take calculated risks and take a position against considerable odds.

9. Funny. Not over-the-top, but in the right measure, brings down other’s defences.

10. Empathetic. Connecting with others on an emotional level. Look, I’m not saying you should ignore discrimination. What I am saying is this: There are some things you can’t change, like your intelligence, your looks, and your height. Reality is what it is. You can whine and complain about it, or you can make the most of what god gave you by working on the things you can change.”

Written by: Sue Sjuve (Diversity and Inclusion Specialist)

1 Comment

  1. ben Pavey

    I am sure that Sue and Steve are right. Being a bit vertically challenged myself I have become conscious of the way colleagues ( and perhaps recruiters?) eyes seem to skim over me. The advice given here is practical and encouraging – thanks . Ben

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