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Prof: Fat ladies don't get to be CEOs, lardy blokes do

Greasy pole, glass ceiling stymie chubbette biz execs

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New research carried out on Fortune 1000 CEOs indicates that fatcat biz kingpins are, in fact, fatter than the rest of us - but not if they're women. Counterintuitively perhaps, it appears that breaking through the glass ceiling is more difficult for the heftier lady.

"The results suggest that while being obese limits the career opportunities of both women and men, being 'merely overweight' harms only female executives – and may actually benefit male executives," said Mark Roehling, HR prof at Michigan State Uni.

Roehling's study didn't make the obvious mistake of asking the fatcats how much they weighed; nor of trying to persuade possibly-lardy biz chieftains to step onto the scales. Rather, highly trained weight guessers estimated the CEOs' poundage based on publicly-available photos.

According to Michigan State:

For the study, two groups of experts analyzed publicly available photos of CEOs from Fortune 1000 companies. The expert raters included individuals who were tested prior to the study to determine their accuracy in assessing body weight based on photographs, and medical professionals who by virtue of training and experience are experts at weight estimation.

It seems that among Fortune 1000 CEOs, actual full-blown obesity is rare, with just five per cent of males and females in this bracket - much less than in the general population. However, up to 61 per cent of the male CEOs were assessed as "overweight", which compares unfavourably with the US national average of 41 per cent for men of comparable age. Among men, biz fatcats are indeed fat.

The picture is very different for lady CEOs, however. At worst, 22 per cent of them were assessed as overweight - less than the 29 per cent which would have been normal for a group of US women of similar ages. While fat blokes can climb the greasy pole with ease, it seems this is much harder for chubby female execs.

Given that all this is based on wild guesses at body mass index (BMI), and that BMI is itself a deeply suspicious way of measuring fatness, the whole thing seems a bit, erm, insubstantial. For those interested, however, there's more from Michigan State here, and a pay article in the Journal Equal Opportunities International here. ®

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