The Tall and Short of it…

There has been a recent study here in Australia that suggests taller people get paid more. Apparently, for men, being taller than their colleagues can fetch them $1000 more while for women it’s about $600.

I am offended.

As a short person, first and foremost.

And as a person that is aware about research and its intricacies.

To those that don’t know me: I am 5 feet tall. (or short, if you prefer)

And my height has never been an issue when it comes to work or pay. I’m paid on the basis of my education and my experience. Students, majority of who are taller than me, still respect me and treat me well. My emplyers, who are taller than me, don’t discriminate. My colleagues, who vary in height, don’t give a damn that I’m 5 feet as long as I can provide them with recommendations on how to deal with their difficult students.

Having said that, my height came up during my job interview at the school. The principal asked me about how I would deal with the boys at the school since the school is of a cultural background where the boys are generally tall. My reply to that was — just as I would deal with the girls or any other teens I see because majority of the teenagers I see are taller than me. (I think they liked the answer, among others, because I did get the job!).

In my job, I personally think that being short is an advantage. I mean, kids have teachers looking ‘down’ on them all day…they don’t want a psychologist who can appear to be in an authoritative position as well. Me being short, I’m either at their height or shorter which is less intimidating for them. Same goes with the little ones…I’m still not as ‘big’ as someone who is 5’5 might appear to a 6 year old who is tiny.

Now, to the researchers that conducted the study. Without having read your research, I would like to ask some questions which I think should have been answered before publicising this in the media (which as we know, sensationalises every damn thing!)

  1. What was your sample? Did you only choose a sample of high-flying corporates? Because if so, it is skewed and the study lacks external validity. Did you bother to check the education sector, the health sector, the retail sector and all the others…
  2. What kind of statistics did you use? Based on the type of research, I think a correlational study was done, and as we know, correlation means there could be several other factors not included in the study that affect the outcome of the results

  3. Did you consider other factors other than height? What about education or experience?

  4. Did you compare two people, one taller than the other, with the same educational background, same level of experience, same level of skills and expertise, in the same company/sector and see whether their wages were different?

It is unethical to report research without highlighting some of the aforementioned factors. People that lack the knowledge about research are probably right now cursing their biological make-up for being short. When in reality, this research probably lacks validity to be generalised to the entire population.

I know it sounds like a rant from a short person and probably is. But seriously, how are we to believe this?

Do tell me if someone in your workplace, with the same education as you, same level of experience, same skills, same areas of expertise — in fact just like you in every way except height — do they get paid differently???

Until next time,


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  • Ersa
    May 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I’m not tall either…And I sure have been made fun of for being the short one in the family. But don’t know how that’s playing out in the corporate world. I did hear about a similar research sometime way back in 2007, but again like you said, not really sure what all factors are taken into consideration while doing such research.

  • legallyalien
    May 20, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I just had to comment!! As is pretty obvious from my almost defunct blog that I haven’t been very good with it. But I was looking at some themes and this coffee desk theme was on my short list!!! I laughed when I saw your blog and saw the same theme! Don’t worry… I’ll get a different theme now. 🙂 Nice blog btw… interesting posts.

  • Smita
    May 20, 2009 at 3:54 am

    Seriously what kind of research people conduct and publish it also.

    Am 4′ 11″ and I think am being paid well 🙂 though anything extra is welcome but it is being governed by my height??? Nah!!!

    I always say, meri height se meri umr ka pata nahin chalta 😉

  • Lilly
    May 20, 2009 at 6:49 am

    I have heard this so often before tht leadership positions got to taller people. I do not believe it for a moment. Look at our two most recent Prime Ministers, both are short. I am tall and still do not agree with the outcomes. As you say it is dependent on so many things! It is about the overall package not one element.

    Great post by the way and I really like your web design more and more with each visit. Very clever. Dont forget to come over and enter my giveaways from my favourite Etsy sellers. The last one went to Dee form Downunder too!!

  • Footloose
    May 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Yeah I think it’s a ridiculous research too. (And I’m tall!). I don’t know how people read or put any faith into these kinds of things.
    On a related not, I just read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Tons of people swear by it but I thought a lot of this theories were not really grounded. It didn’t help that he gave exactly one major example of a person for each of his hypothesis. Tell me if you’ve read the book or something similar and we can have a discussion 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    May 22, 2009 at 4:22 am

    @ Ersa: I get lucky in the short dept…my mum is slightly shorter than me. Re hearing about this study in 2007, it’s possible because this was an Australian study replicating a US and UK study.

    @ LegallyAlien: Welcome! And thank you…do keep visiting!

    @ Smita: Yep…being short sometimes helps in the age dept too. And thanks for de-bunking the research with your case study. 🙂

    @ Lilly: You’re so right. The prime ministers are great examples. And thanks for the lovely comment on the design…

    @ Footloose: You were on my mind when I was writing this…wondered whether you got paid more than someone shorter in a similar position 🙂 I haven’t read Tipping Point but I’m going to look for it and if I read it, will definitely discuss it.

  • SSQuo
    May 22, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    You know I read about this a few years ago (yes, a different one perhaps) and meant toblog about it, so I am glad you did it for me! 🙂

    It seems like studies like this tend to use a sample size from ‘top management’ positions. I think that is basically the criteria. ‘Who makes it to the top’.

    I would think that the some of the things you mentioned as variables would have been taken into consideration, they have to be, else the study results are worthless.

    I am about 5′ 6″ and I dont know if this has come in the way (good/bad), since I guess I am more average than say a 5′ 9″ girl.

    I do think that size makes a difference (Not from a perosnality standpoint) but they are just more visible. For e.g. If someone enters the room, a taller person is more notiecable than a shorter perosn, so the eyes just fall upon them, their presence is noted.

    My boss took his little girl for the White House Easter Egg Roll and saw the Obama family, he said they were very imposing and just had a character about them…and I think apart from the personalities (which are great), their structure adds to it.

    Dont know if I answered the qtn or just rambled more like the latter 🙂 I personally think that height should not play a role, and I have many ‘shorter’ (relatively) friends who are mighty mighty successful!!

  • legallyalien
    June 2, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Sorry to butt into this conversation, but I recently read Tipping Point too and despite all the rave, the book seemed to go and on about one basic point and not make too many other points.
    And true, I wish there were more examples instead of such details about one example.

  • Kartikey
    June 5, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    tall people project confidence
    they are paid more

    in south india, voluptuous women flaunt their curves. they are paid more

    and many more examples.

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