By Aysha Imtiaz
When Imran found work as a security guard at a private university in Karachi, Pakistan, he was just shy of 5’2”, a few inches shorter than the average Pakistani male. Yet workers assigned Imran nicknames, “Munna bhai!” one exclaimed, a local term of endearment for a small, young brother. “Bona,” called out another – Urdu for pygmy or dwarf.
Imran, whose full name is being withheld for job security, says he’s proud of who he is and can ride out “ups and downs” but he suspects his height has a particularly negative impact on his pay and opportunities for promotion. Nobody has linked the two outright, and even Imran sometimes wonders if it’s a figment of his imagination that his height has played a role in being passed over for promotion. But as he finds himself grouped in the same salary band as newly recruited guards for yet another year, he can’t help but wonder if evaluations based on his stature—not his work—are holding him back.
Height discrimination is one of the least-known or discussed biases, with beliefs that taller people are more dominant, intelligent and healthier. Still, heightism is an implicit bias, one we may subconsciously harbour without realising it. And it’s this covertness that makes it difficult to eradicate.