58% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are six feet tall or more but only 14% of all men in the USA are this tall. On the face of it, being tall means you’re four times more likely to get the top job than if you’re not.
Here’s another: after dipping to 21 in 2016, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies rose to a ‘whopping’ 32 in 2017. Reading this stat literally, having a Y chromosome means you’re nearly 16 times more likely to become a ‘grand fromage’ than if you were blessed with two Xs.
Our physical attributes play a part in how much of a boost we get in life – that is hardly earth shattering news – and so do our personalities and predilections. Consider extroverts, people who are extreme – and so attract attention, the charmers, those who love the limelight, etc. Put all of this together with the physical, and you end up with, errr… a tall, white, male who is a polarizer rather than a unifier, not exactly mortified when people are talking about him, and with an overwhelming compulsion to claim vocal credit for everything from a rising stock market and low unemployment, to the end of the Jurassic period and the invention of gravity.
The rest of us can get on in life despite not wanting to be Youtube-famous, not being over six feet tall, not being extreme in our abilities, or opinions (especially our opinions of ourselves). We want to be ourselves, indeed we are told to be ourselves. However, it’s all well and good preaching the merits of authenticity but that will only take us so far. We still need to neutralize the imbalance, and so we end up having to work harder, try to be something we’re not, or find a different path.
But there are things we can do that are within our comfort zones, and that don’t require much effort. We can begin by challenging accepted norms, and not just those related to conventional lines of discrimination. Did you know, for example, that those promoted internally to lead an organization tend (on balance) to perform better than those recruited from outside. Yet the prevailing wisdom remains to hire from without. How many of you have seen well deserving colleagues passed over for promotion as a revolving door of charming, but less competent strangers join an organization with a golden handshake… and then leave it with a golden parachute? Here is one of many articles on the topic, Share this news. Begin a discussion. Challenge the assertion. (To me one of the most laughable suppositions of why external hires want more money is because they need to be compensated for having to navigate an unfamiliar environment; shouldn’t the internal hires actually get more money because if we are paying according to level of experience then they are already intimately familiar with the environment?)
We need to address our own biases, perhaps by focusing on results rather than words, and in this way we may be able to silence all those squeaky wheels who hog the oil. Moreover, we need to not just shut our ears to the squeaky oil hoggers but we need to take our own lights and collectively shine them on the good deeds we come across in case those making them happen were born with a broken torch; we need to look out for one another, people!
Change is coming. Social entrepreneurship is on the rise. But we need to be a part of that change rather than wait for it to happen; we can choose to shape our destinies or we risk becoming victims of them. It’s on us. Look out for one another. Refuse to accept what is not right. Let’s do good things.