The long and short of ‘hair’

I realize that being hung over makes writing even more interesting, though I am not sure if I can say it’s interesting for the readers!

As I sit in the salon while my hair stylist works his magic on my hair, I think about the time  I spent shampooing, conditioning, getting my hair styled, ironed, colored, etc, etc. Do I think it’s a waste of time? – nah, not at all, as I love long hair. This leads me to thinking that though I hate generalizations, most successful women in the corporate world have short hair!

Let’s take Fortune’s list of most powerful women in the world and you will see what I mean:

1. Indra Nooyi – Chairman and CEO, Pepsico
2. Irene Rosenfeld – Chairman and CEO, Kraft foods
3. Pat Woertz – Chairman, CEO and President, Archer Daniels Midland
4. Angela Braly – President and CEO, Wellpoint
5. Ellen Kullman – CEO, DuPont
6. Carol Bartz – CEO, Yahoo
7. Ursula Burns – CEO, Xerox
8. Brenda Barnes – Chairman and CEO, Sara Lee
9. Safra Catz – Co-President, Oracle
10. Ann Livermore – EVP, Technology Solutions, Hewlett-Packard
11. Sheri McCoy – Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson
12. Melanie Healey – Group president, Global feminine and health care, P & G
13. Anne Sweeney – Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, Walt Disney
14. Heidi Miller – CEO, Treasury & Securities Services, JPMorgan Chase
15. Colleen Goggins – Worldwide chairman, Consumer Group, Johnson & Johnson

Each of the above listed powerful women has short hair. Even Hillary Clinton and Australia’s first woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard have short hair. Now let’s take a look closer home: Vinita Bali, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Naina Lal Kidwai, Anu Aga, Shikha Sharma, Kalpana Morparia, Lalita Gupte are the ones that come to mind immediately and each one of them again has short hair.

Notable exceptions are Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO, Avon (being a cosmetics company) Chanda Kocchhar and Renuka Ramnath. Even the ones I see climbing up the corporate ladder have short hair – I mentioned this to one of the senior managers I work with (she has very short hair) and she said my observation was not completely off the mark.

Let us understand how hair can play truant when one is trying to create a serious impression – if in a meeting, while thinking about something, you absent mindedly play with your hair, chances are you wont be taken very seriously, specially by your male colleagues – not to forget getting disapproving glances from female colleagues who may think you are using your “looks”. Playing with hair is the one of the signs of flirting and sometimes women touch their hair subconsciously without even realizing it. Besides the risk of appearing overtly feminine, one also has to maintain hair – the time and effort spent is worth the final result – but successful and busy high flying women may not have the time, patience and inclination to style long hair when they could be making millions for the company. It is estimated that women spend 2.5 years and USD 50,000 caring for hair during their lifetime. Hair is something that ranks right up their with waist-to-hip ratio when it comes to men getting attracted to women. Hair is something that makes women feel feminine and can even help change personalities, depending on hair cut and hair color (as banked on by Loreal).

Of course, nowadays men too spend more time in grooming and getting dressed. So sometimes, for the women, more than saving time, it’s all about exuding power or trying to appear more masculine – to be more accepted in a largely male dominated corporate world – which may explain how pant suits may also find more favor with such women than dresses.

Also if your male colleague goes bald, you may hardly give it a thought but just imagine if your female colleague went bald – you would find that shocking, wouldn’t you? Women are sometimes under tremendous pressure to look a certain way; men can get away with a lot – though times are changing.

10 Responses to The long and short of ‘hair’

  1. Vinod says:

    Excellent observation.

    “Correlation or causation”??/

  2. samta says:

    I would think its a causation. Short hair > women taken seriously > success.

    So tom if I don’t make it in the corporate world, I know it’s my love for long hair that got in the way to success 😛

  3. Yep..I feel short hair gives a look that the person is practical and efficient. When you have long hair it behaves errantly and gets untidy and gives you a look of not being in control 🙂

  4. what says:

    i dont think short hair means success for women.

    infact studies have shown that corporate women actually have more testosterone than an average woman.

    besides, these women are insanely driven, they in a strive to achieve corporate success often give up a lot of things in life. success doesnt come easy. so while other girls are coloring their hair and going to discs, these “losers” are actually working hard. they are not interested in social proofing or what others think of them!

    also, not many guys would be interested in such women. so net net, these women dont care about how feminine they look and hence go for short hair. also with age its difficult to maintain long hair. there could be a million factors here! you have just isolated a couple and are claiming causation! totally wrong!

  5. samta says:

    Fair point that it’s not causation; however I would be interested in knowing that these women who are successful in the corporate world who you claim to have more “testosterone” are tomboyish/ non feminine from a young age and like to keep short hair or is it that they realize on the climb to the top that the hair is too much to maintain – waste of time and gives an image different from one they want to portray and hence go in for the cut?

    Considering that hair is known to be a woman’s crowning glory, is it that these women want to be considered like/ as men?

    And I don’t think they are losers.

  6. Jai_C says:

    You could extend this to news media too… Barkha Dutt/ Sagarika Ghose have short hair – and they are in powerful / lead positions. I think its a reverse causation if at all, hair just gets in the way of these busy execs, and they’re not really bothered about trying to appear to set norms of feminine or “crowning glory”. They probably date or marry guys who are similarly driven and not particularly good-looking or conforming to traditional notions of manliness/ masculinity.

  7. kaa says:

    while this maybe politically incorrect, it is ‘scientific’.

    this might be the chain of logic — more testoterone –>more focussed/ambitious (i won’t use the word ruthless)–>less time to spend on ‘frivolous’ things like maintaining hair

  8. kaa says:

    oops!! i did not read all the comments before posting.

  9. revathi says:

    In my opinion, it is age that makes hair shorter! After a certain age, women find it increasingly difficult to maintain long hair ( just takes longer to grow and splits at the ends). So most successful women (generally over 40) tend to have short hair (helps to color easily).

  10. usha says:

    Came here from your article ‘When everyone is an author’ in livemint..funny and analytical at the same time, I thought.

    On hair analysis though, I beg to differ…

    Having reached the ‘certain age’, as Revathi says above, I can definitely tell you that short hair for older women is a necessity not a choice 🙂 it just doesn’t grow thick and long anymore! Barring the Avon lady (does Avon make haircare products?), the other two Indians might be more Indian in their approach to hair where womens’ hair (traditionally) had to be kept long.

    I think I pretty much got everything ….capitalization, ellipses, quotation marks, etc….?

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