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June 23, 2021

Success seems to favour the tall, good-looking

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Because it is largely immeasurable, it’s been tough to pin down once and for all that beauty is a prerequisite for success.

Sure, there’s been sentiment that society favours the good-looking, but rarely has a quantifiable analysis popped up to defend the notion beyond simple speculation and water-cooler talk.

While, granted, this Financial Post article isn’t exactly irrefutable, I’ve yet to find a better attempt to prove the merits of looks (and height) in the corporate world.

Author Ray B. Williams draws on some interesting sources to prove his thesis, arguing “there’s lots of evidence to show that people have gained success in their careers because they are taller and more attractive."

Of the more intriguing points, Williams references an Institute of Social and Economic Research study that points to a connection between popularity in high school and earning power later in life. Now, this isn’t to say that only the good-looking kids were cool from grades 9-12, but when you consider this U of Florida psychology report also suggests attractive people get more of almost everything* from birth, it throws a little extra weight behind the theory.

(*In this case, everything is defined as medical attention in the hospital, attention from teachers/peers in school and anything that would lead to a “positive spiral toward better self image and higher attainment through life,” according to the Post.)

Williams also tackles the issue of height leading to success. Apparently, not only do studies show that an inch of height over the average can be worth an extra $1,000 of income each year, but the typical height of CEOs of major North American corporations is 6’2”. Not sure exactly where those stats come from, but if they seem as preposterous to you as they did to me, consider this:

Nowhere, writes Williams, is the correlation between height and career success more dominant than in politics, specifically inside the post of the most powerful man in the world. Of the 43 American presidents, only five have been below average height and we haven’t seen one of those since Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

What’s also interesting here is that, according to a University of Pennsylvania study, the psyche developed in high school has even more to do with your potential for earning power than ever thought before. Tall men who were short in high school often earn in a way typical of taller men, while short men who were considered tall in high school are said to display the earning characteristics of shorter men. (Confused yet?)

To add more beef to the height argument, the trend applies equally to female workers as it does men. The average height of prominent female CEOs is 5’9”, well over the standard for the rest of North American women.

If this all comes as a bit depressing to you, you’re not alone. Despite the lengths we seem to have made in regard to civil rights, equal opportunity and the like, it sure seems – at least – that we’re not as unbiased as we enjoy considering ourselves. Probably safe to suggest we should all take on some of the blame here, too.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...