March 14, 2008, - 1:06 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
. . . America’s top CEOs would rather be bald than short. But in politics, baldness is a no go. USA Today did a survey of America’s CEOs to uncover the truth on the burning issue of our day. And not only that, the newspaper made this the cover story of its “Money” section. Yup, that’s the distinction between the Wall Street Journal and McPaper.
And while the topic and article are inane and useless in the scheme of things, it’s still interesting. USA Today claims that hair–or lack of it–affects political prospects, but not those in the business world. And you can’t miss this from 5-foot, ten-inch, bald Howard Behar–former president of Starbucks, North America:
I mean, look at Mitt Romney. Lots of hair. Tall and good-looking. Sure didn’t help him. Compare him to the Dalai Lama: short, no hair and not exactly a looker. Just call me the Dalai Behar.
CEOs say being bald doesn’t impede success and, given a choice, it’s better to be bald than short. So widely held is this conventional wisdom among top executives that when asked to choose, most CEOs say they’d take 2 more inches of height over a full head of Robert Redford hair.
Even most bald CEOs, including many who are both tall and bald, would choose to be taller. “Lack of hair can only mean the brain is busy with more important functions,” says Murray Martin, the 5-foot-8 CEO of $5.7 billion Pitney Bowes, who is being generous when he describes his hair as “thinning.”
[DS: Previous to this entry, reader Jonathan wrote me:
Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street.]
“I don’t believe it ever (affected) my career. But as I progressed, it became less and less of an issue until it is now a point of pride and a personal branding advantage,” says Steve Carley, the 6-foot-1 bald CEO of El Pollo Loco. “It encourages approachability.” . . .
It’s not that being short is a career launching pad. Plenty of studies have found that taller men make more money, gain more success and attract more women. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell says 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs are 6-foot-2 and taller – vs. just 4% of all men.
Bald men are a much bigger slice of the general population. The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery estimates that 50% of Caucasian men older than 45 and 60% older than 60 have clinical balding. Stress can cause hair to fall out, so all things being equal, the percentage of bald leaders might be expected to be a little higher than average. Yet:
* If elected, John McCain would be the first bald U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower. [DS: McCain is bald?!] To be fair, baldness, unlike height, can be a matter of opinion. At 71, some might say McCain is doing OK in the hair department for his age group. But pictures of 42 presidents indicate that less than 25% were bald or balding, when statistically it should be at least half.
* There are 41 male state governors. Those who are bald or balding make up less than 20% and, yes, that includes the aptly named John Baldacci of Maine. The hair-loss club dropped a governor Wednesday when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced he would resign after being linked as a client to a prostitution ring. He will be replaced by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who is not bald. Only 10% to 20% of the 84 male U.S. senators are bald or balding.
* Among corporate CEOs, women run four of the largest 125 companies on the Fortune 500. USA TODAY examined photos of the men and considered about 25% to be bald or balding. Bald men running the nation’s largest companies include Chevron’s David O’Reilly, Home Depot’s Francis Blake, Morgan Stanley’s John Mack and Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein. . . .
USA TODAY surveyed its panel of CEOs, retired CEOs and leading executives. There was a lower response rate than for surveys on other topics, but 95% of the 74 who responded said, if given a choice, they would rather be bald than short. More telling is that the 31 CEOs who identified themselves as bald or “headed in that direction” in the unscientific survey were unanimous in saying that being vertically challenged is more detrimental to an aspiring executive’s career.
I’m still focusing on the claim that “John McCain is bald.” Huh? He’s not exactly a member of the Hair Club For Men just yet. Then, there’s the issue this article didn’t address: How many female U.S. politicians and business world execs are going bald?
Tags: America, aspiring executive, bald CEO, baldness, CEO, Chevron, David O'Reilly, David Paterson, Debbie Schlussel, Dwight Eisenhower, El Pollo Loco, Eliot Spitzer, Fortune 500 CEOs, Francis Blake, full head of Robert Redford, Goldman Sachs, Governor, Hair Club For Men, Home Depot, Howard Behar, International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, John Baldacci, John Mack, John McCain, Lloyd Blankfein, Maine, Malcolm Gladwell, Morgan Stanley, Murray Martin, North America, Pitney Bowes, President, Robert Redford, Starbucks, Steve Carley, the Wall Street Journal, United States, USA Today, USD, Wall Street Journal