“In his book, Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell highlights a curious statistic of corporate leadership: ‘In the US population’ he writes, ‘about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or taller. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent.
What’s dispiriting beyond the fact that a clear minority at a certain level become a significant majority, is that in no roles in the managerial pipeline of these 500 companies does height have any bearing at all on job ability (Oh, if only Johnson were slightly taller, his financial models would be more accurate and compelling!). It’s not in any way a deliberate prejudice, but an acknowledgement that people subconsciously gravitate towards a certain type for leadership; ‘Rapid cognition’ says Gladwell, “leading them astray.”
I wrote the above paragraphs three years ago for a marketing professionals publication, B&T magazine. My target in the full article was actually the peculiar office practice of *eye roll* ‘brain storms.’ Not that they’re bad exactly, but that they tended to reward talking over thought and consideration, with the end result being less a ‘group consensus’ and more a summation of what the two most talkative group members had to say; the chattiest unconsciously dominating other ideas out of the discussion. Or so the science says. The point was, don’t blindly follow height and don’t blindly follow charisma; follow consideration instead.
But as this is not a marketing magazine (“This” is your new divine scripture), it’s a good opportunity to revisit the issue of height. Because frankly, it’s high time (shut up) we talked about height discrimination. I’ve had it up to here (shut up!) with being talked down to (I said shut up!). I’m taking a stand.
‘Blink’ by Malcom Gladwell was published in 2005, yet it’s taken until 2015 before a string of media articles referenced the above height outrageousness in print, namely The Atlantic and this blog which is totally in the same league. I believe we two titans of higher thought use the same font, you dick. Anyways, according to The Atlantic article, every inch of height is worth around $800 of extra salary earnings per year. Apparently, because taller people are more likely to be hired, promoted and otherwise financially rewarded than their shorter peers! In all my life I’ve never heard of such inexcusable discrimination! It’s like I’m being paid, like… a woman!
Outrageous. Amirite, ladies? That I, with my man-sized brain should only expect to earn as much as you do? Of course I deserve more. To be fair, the article states that the difference plateaus at 6″ and the biggest differences are actually between 5″4 and 5″6 (the difference between ‘shorter than average’, and ‘jockey’). Technically, I’m actually on the beneficiary side of this wage disparity. But still, it appears I’m less likely to become C.E.O. than taller men. You know… like a woman.
My mother is Filipino, which is the problem right there. The Philippines is a nation of shorties, where even I feel a bit tall sometimes. A recurring observation I have when I’m there is “Hey! I can see over the top of everyone’s head!” when I’m waiting in various lines for movie tickets, beer.
You know how girls are always telling their friends “So I met this guy! He’s so hot and so short!” No? Yeah, no that’s not a thing ever. Racists. Daniel Radcliffe seems to do all right though. We also reportedly have a higher life expectancy, due to our age-defying genes and ability to avoid tall-people mishaps such as ceiling fans and lighting strikes. But still…
Growing up, I was never the shortest in the class but I was very aware of not being tall, especially since I was always playing sport. Sport was my everything, so much so that to the outsider I appeared to have something of a Napoleon Complex. But in my mind, Napoleon had it alllll figured out. He led the French army – the French “army”- to military domination of Europe whilst wearing a funny hat, mon frere. Oh, sure Britannia ruled the waves, but no-one fucked with Napoleon on the fields. Since he died, I believe France has gone on a near 200 year long losing streak.
Today, as a possibly underpaid working man, my sport of choice is company basketball (mixed league). Basketball is the ultimate ‘tall’ sport, but I’ve learned to adapt. In six seasons I’ve never had my shot blocked, but that’s because I shoot from faaaaaaaar away from the basket where those tall, gangly freaks can’t reach me. The arc of my shot is such that the net makes less of a ‘swish’ and more of snap! noise on those odd occasions it goes in, whereupon I jog back up the court thinking “Yeah, boi! I just shot a man!”
In another Gladwell book, ‘Outliers’ Gladwell makes the point of saying that in basketball, it’s not about being tall, it’s about being tall ‘enough’. He looked at the Great Michael Jordan – who was never, ever the tallest person on the court – and Shawn Bradley, who stood an absurd 7″6; more a gumby than a human man. But, like a lot of really tall people, Bradley moved like his limbs hadn’t been introduced to each other. Like a camel falling down the stairs. I imagine if he sat in a beanbag chair, he’d never get out.
The most memorable play of my short basketball career came out of a timeout. Just ahead with two minutes to go and needing to make a statement to put the game away, our best player – a short Asian girl from Investments – took me aside and said we’re going to run a play. Like, a ‘real’ play like on TV and shit. No-one runs plays in Div 4. This is a division where I’ve seen a panicked accountant hurl a desperation pass to an ‘open’ team mate, who was sitting on the bench, causing him to drop his orange slice. Nevertheless, I inbounded the ball to her, she charged towards the rim drawing three defenders, I took one step in and put my hands out and she, just like she said she would, turned and flung the ball back to me at the 3pt line. I was w—i —d—e open.
Dude. I had sooooooooo much time. I set my feet, lined up the seams, adjusted my underwear, checked for cross winds, updated my status (“The current Government! #Boo!”) and took the shot. Somewhere behind me, one of the other team’s bench players said “Awwwwwwww….” 😦 SNAP! Game. I laughed my head off all the way back up the court. Not tall, but tall ‘enough.’
In the next episode: “It’s Christmas! – What filters to use before posting photos of your ugly, ugly familes to Facebook.”