The challenges of being short (just under 155cm to be exact!)

Have you ever considered the challenges of being short? Or maybe you are short yourself! You might be surprised at some of the challenges that face those of smaller stature. There are many factors that influence a feeling of inclusion, and being short is one of them.


Research shows that taller men at least are much more likely to be given leadership positions. It is easier for them to “stand out above the crowd”. When a short woman “takes charge” the nicest comment I have heard is being called a “human dynamo”. However, many shorter women find it difficult to deliver the “stand out leadership” message that others are expecting from their leaders. If you review women leaders, many of these women are well above average in height.

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See how our global leaders rate in terms of height:


The research also shows that taller people are paid significantly more money. Maybe that is part of the reason for the gender pay gap as most women are shorter than men. Obviously, this is far from the full story on the gender pay gap. However, this also links back to our assumptions that “leaders are taller” – and as we know, leaders are paid more. Like so many biases we hold, awareness allows us to question our assumptions and ensure we override our unconscious thoughts.

Taller people make more money:


When groups of people men and/or women are talking together, the conversation is often conducted at least at the 165cm level. If the group is men, it is likely to be conducted at the 180cm level. Shorter women, including many women of Asian backgrounds, often feel excluded, or have to make more effort to participate. If you are tall, perhaps you can suggest sitting down for the discussion or ensuring the shorter members of the group are actively brought in to the conversation.

How voice gives away your height:


When making a keynote presentation, there is often a microphone and a lectern provided. Have you ever considered, how someone of 155cm feels almost totally hidden behind a lectern where only the head is visible to the audience? As we know, communication is over 50% visual and if you can’t see the presenter you may miss many of the visual cues. I have often balanced on telephone books and used a lapel mike so that I can readily see the audience and they can see me. And then the microphone, often set for a person 180cm tall and fixed at that height with a screw, has been tightened beyond my capacity to alter it. If you have asked someone to give a keynote, consider their height as you plan the stage layout. Similarly, consider how someone of my height will elegantly mount a stool for a panel discussion.

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Read about non-verbal communication and height:

Whatever your height, if you want others to feel included, consider how you can make a difference. Be aware you may be inclined to see more leadership potential in tall people or pay them more!


Diana Ryall is a leading voice and advocate for Gender Equality in Australia. She promotes women achieving their career aspirations, and challenges men to examine their assumptions about women and their careers. In 2002, Diana founded Xplore for Success, a consultancy that specialises in educating and supporting professionals to achieve career and personal success. Over the past 13 years, more than 11,000 women and men have benefited from Xplore’s career development programs, including participants from organisations like American Express, CBA, Deloitte, Department of Commerce, GHD, Lend Lease, Luxottica, KPMG, NAB and QBE.