58% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are over six feet tall - yet only abuot 14.5% of all American men* are that tall. Even more strikingly, in the general population, just 3.9% of adult males are 6 feet 2 inches or taller, but almost a third of CEOs are!
What does that mean? Most of us, in ways that we are not entirely aware of, automatically associate leadership ability with imposing physical stature. We have a sense of what a leader is supposed to look like, and that stereotype is so powerful that when someone fits it, we simply become blind to other considerations.
*Only 8 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are female, so they are not even worth considering, unfortunately.
The idea that better looking people do better in the business world is not new by any means, but this is the first time I've seen it backed up by very specific and believable statistics. Maybe I should work on my height? or the height of my heels?
Gladwell is so keen on eliminating misleading visual stimul that he advocates preventing juries from seeing or hearing the defendent in criminal trials. "It only serves to complicate the matter," he explains. "Trials where the defendent's replies to questions are emailed would be a much fairer system."
That's an interesting idea. I am on Jury Duty on July 5th, so if I do get picked for a trial, I'll get a chance to see if looks matter. Seriously, I think not having the jurors see the defendent is a great idea - it should eliminate the looks, gender, race, etc. biases (and if those characteristics are relevant to the case, the lawyers would be sure to point them out).