Coveting That Corner Office? Take a Look at … Your Looks

Gabrielle Karol

4. Taller Is Better

In one study that polled half of Fortune 500 companies, the average male CEO was three inches taller than the average man, coming in at just under 6 feet. It seems that taller is also better when it comes to salary negotiations and raises: Men who are 6 feet or taller make an average of $5,525 more per year than men who are only 5 feet 5 inches tall.

 What People Look for in a Female Exec …

1. Fit and Skinny

The effect that weight has on the perception of female leaders is even more pronounced than it is for men. A Michigan State study found that while 45% to 61% of top male CEOs are overweight (possessing BMIs between 25 and 29), only 5% to 22% of female CEOs are overweight. The researchers believe that this discrepancy “reflects a greater tolerance and possibly even a preference for a larger size among men but a smaller size among women.”

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2. Not Talkative

While power and volubility go hand in hand for male leaders, women at the top speak much less than their male counterparts. Why? They fear backlash. A study from Yale University affirmed this fear: A female CEO who spoke for a disproportionately longer time than others was perceived as significantly less competent and less suitable for leadership than a male CEO who spoke for the same amount of time.

3. “Feminine” Traits … But Only for Women at the Top

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that women who come across as sensitive and caring were better evaluated than their male counterparts–but only if they were at the uppers echelons of a business organization. However, the study’s authors caution that “successful women may face changing stereotypes as they move up the corporate ladder,” and the same characteristics that might be praised further on in a career may be hindrances at lower and mid-level positions.

  • cgm

    This is interesting, but is all about how men can look the part. It would be interesting to see a similar analysis of what women can do to look the part, as I doubt shaving my head would help!

  • Lanikalclark

    Wow still in 2013 and Men are getting the advice and tips on how to look and dress the part for “Executive” ? How Biased 

  • Robin

    I thought this was a women’s based site.  Why was 95% of the advice for men?

    • AldenWicker

      Hi Robin,

      LearnVest wants to provide financial advice for anyone seeking it–male or female. But to answer your question, we found a majority of studies on male qualities to feature most likely because there’s a larger pool of people to study. Only 19 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, which is a tiny sample size. Also, this lack of studies that focus on female traits (longer versus shorter hair, for example, instead of baldness versus hair) might be due to a lingering bias toward male CEOs. Hopefully, we will see more research on the substantive traits that make female CEOs successful in the coming years!

  • Caroline Turner

    In my workshops, I take people through an exercise to show that all of us have internalized (unconscious) pictures of how an executive looks. For most it is tall, white, lean and male. I hope that awareness of these unconscious mind-sets can open the playing field for women and others who don’t fit this picture. At least there are now enough women executives (21 CEO’s in the F500) that we can find out what the image of a female CEO is!