Heightism in the workplace

Heightism in the workplace
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When you think of equality in the workplace, what comes to mind? Probably making sure women get paid the same as their male counterparts or maybe ensuring that racial minorities are represented among the staff. It may also mean making sure that LGBTQ+ folks are included and given equal opportunities in the workplace.

But in addition to all of those, did you know that height discrimination is also an issue?

Research shows a correlation between taller people (both men and women) and higher income, and it suggests that height also influences the chances of getting a promotion. See, it turns out that we tend to perceive taller people as being more leaderlike, which might explain why particularly taller men are more likely to receive managerial positions over their peers.

Still, most of this bias is implicit, meaning that no one is really thinking, “Oh, John is taller than Lee, so he deserves that raise more.” The whole thing runs mostly on vibes, and, according to some scientists, we get those vibes from our more evolutionary instincts.

“If you’re bigger, you’re the head of the group,” said Dr. Omer Kimhi, an associate professor at the University of Haifa in Israel. “Some of that remains engrained … and we perceive height as connected to authority, strength and a higher position.”

There’s also the language aspect of it. Think about it, if you hear the phrase, “drew the short straw” or “came up short,” it means to fail or to have been unsuccessful. But, on the flip side, “standing tall” and “being head and shoulders above the rest” mean that you’re confident or superior.

Challenging heightism is hard, though, since it’s so subliminal and very hard to prove. In the few places with protections for people based on height, no one seems to file cases around it since it’s so challenging to show that someone was discriminated against because of their height and not some other thing.

So, at the end of the day, heightism is going to be something we all have to work on collectively, and experts say there’s no quick fix, and this will be an ongoing process to solve.