Public Speaking Tip 79: Petite and Female? Your Size is No Obstacle to Being Heard!

According to Truly, one-fourth of adult U.S. women are under 5’3″.

These women run businesses, raise families, and speak up for their beliefs, just like their taller sisters do. So if you ever feel that small stature is a deficit, think about petite powerhouses like these:

"Queen of Salsa" Celia Cruz (shown here with Big Bird) is among the many petite women who've left a big mark on global culture, politics, and business.

“Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz (shown here with Big Bird) is among the many petite women who’ve left a big mark on global culture, politics, and business.

Small Women with Big Impacts

  • Rosa Parks, civil rights leader (5’3″)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a/k/a The Notorious R.B.G., Supreme Court Justice (5′ 1/2″)
  • Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel
  • Nicki Minaj, rapper (5’0″)
  • Jennifer Lopez, a/k/a J-Lo, enterainer, producer, businesswoman (5’3″)
  • Coco Chanel, fashion magnate
  • Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sex educator (4’7″)
  • Dolly Parton, country music diva, businesswoman (5’0″)
  • Rachael Ray, Food Network star (5’3″)
  • Bernadette Peters, Broadway legend (5’3″)
  • Jennifer Gelfand, ballerina (“I try to dance big”), and
  • Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who at 5’5″ is of average female height — and the most powerful person in Europe.

Can Petite Women Succeed in Business?

With a few notable exceptions, most of the women listed above are entertainers.

That’s because it’s more difficult to find stats on successful businesswomen and entrepreneurs — and that’s a good thing, because it means that the media is talking about the size of their profit margins, not their clothes!

But a look at Forbes’s The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women suggests that female business and political leaders can also be of average or below-average height.

Clearly, size does not determine your potential influence!

Here’s How You Can “Own the Room,” No Matter Your Size

In her extraordinary research on the impact of posture, Harvard professor Amy Cuddy has determined that strong posture doesn’t just show other people that we’re powerful  — it actually makes us feel more powerful, and can help create a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In this excellent picture/summary of Cuddy’s findings, you can clearly see that attitude goes a long way toward signaling influence.

Does this mean that you should put your feet up on the desk at your next meeting, or throw your hands up in a victory pose before taking the podium?

Of course not!

But it does mean, IMHO, that all of us — whatever our height, gender, age, race, ethnic, or class background — could benefit from adopting a more powerful stance and attitude when we communicate.

Remember: Your audience will believe what you tell them! If you tell them (visually and verbally) that you’re worth listening to, they will listen.

So What’s the Long and the Short of It?

Height is no barrier to making yourself heard, to wielding outsized influence, or to reaching whatever goals you have for your life.

So don’t let your stature be an excuse for playing small.

Short women, power up!

Edith Gordon and Laura Tancer, my favorite diminutive dynamos


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  • Shelly S. Cantrell


  • Jezra Kaye

    Shelly, I missed noticing your comment when you wrote it. Thanks so much for reading the post, and affirming the power of small women!