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Breaking Glass

How to succeed in business — when you're short

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Meg Fry, second from left, is nearly 2 feet shorter than her tallest colleague.
Meg Fry, second from left, is nearly 2 feet shorter than her tallest colleague. - ()

Short people got no reason to …

… Be paid less than tall people.

I’m not sure exactly how this works out, but a 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that for every inch of height, regardless of gender, a tall employee could expect to earn an extra $789 per year.

That means my 6’11” colleague Brett Johnson should expect to make $18,147 more than me this year.

Put like that, it’s absurd.

But guess what? The absurdity continues with a 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that found both men and women who were above average height reported higher levels of happiness than shorter people.

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I don’t know — maybe money really does equal happiness.

But studies like this sure do make you wonder if there’s any actually any benefit to being short.

At 5 feet even, I feel I’m expert enough to list the advantages I can think of.

Navigating a path to the bar in a crowded venue is pretty easy when people barely notice you shoving them out of your way.

And it’s pretty cool to shock an opposing team with a killer 3-point shot on the basketball court (yes, I would absolutely win in a game against Johnson).

RELATED: View from the top: Does height help businesswomen? Experts offer their take

But in business, I’d imagine it’d be pretty difficult to be short — if you can’t compensate for it with a strong personality.  

And I’m not sure that’s something one develops simply because she’s short.

You’re either outgoing, or you’re not.

In all fairness, though, in the back of my mind, I knew as a short girl I could easily go unnoticed — and therefore spent my life demanding people pay attention to me.

Maybe that’s why I always wear a bright pink dress to networking events.

Or why, up until this point in my life, I had always rocked a hard-to-pull-off pixie cut.

Superficial markings like that were the only ways to get noticed — my personality is just what kept people interested.

RELATED: Consultant Sally Glick looks at height from the other perspective

Especially because, when it did come up — and it always came up — I’d always turn my height into humor.

If I tripped and fell? “At least it wasn’t a long way down.”

If I couldn’t reach the overhead space on an airplane? “Oh, you know, just trying to meet a man on an airplane.”

Even my coxswain jacket at Blair Academy read “Small Fry.”

And it was that sense of humor that led me to the stage at Second City in Chicago — where my height was frequently the subject of many improvised jokes.

So do I care when taller people come over and rest their arm on my shoulder as if I’m a countertop?

Not really.

But in business, it still feels daunting to speak with tall men and women — and, at times, has actually made me feel like a child.

And, I can absolutely vouch for the fact that shorter women have more issues thrown their way than tall women, since we’re easier to approach.

But I wouldn’t say that my career has ever really depended on my height over my personality.

As long as a woman is either a bulldog or a Great Dane, I think that’s what really matters most.


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