Most women nowadays express a desire to be taller, often because it seems clothes are meant for that. But despite that, what does it actually mean to be considered a short woman?
Women in the United States are considered short at 5 feet 2 inches and below. This is because the average American woman stands at 5 feet 4 inches in height (considered short by northern European standards) and a deviation of two to three inches up or down is considered outside of the average.
As a ‘short’ woman myself, standing 5’2″, I’ll take a personal approach in this article, as well as a factual perspective, looking at what’s short for women globally, with a focus on the countries with the shortest women, factors that affect height, some common problems of being short, and even spotlight some famous short gals historically and currently.
- What is considered short for a woman?
- What is considered short for women in other countries?
- What determines how short a woman will be?
- When is it a problem for women to be short?
- The Takeaway for Short Women
What is considered short for a woman?
The average height for women in the US is 5’4″, seemingly the benchmark in general but of course, if you just look across the region, you’ll see many variations. This is due to culture, biology, nutrition and lifestyle. And there’ll be adjustments with migration so prevalent in modern times. This can be seen on a larger scale when comparing countries and cultures around the globe, too.
In general, a woman who is 5’2″ is considered short in the U.S. On the other hand, when a woman is 5’6″, she is thought of as tall by American standards. For her to be really short or noticeably petite-statured, she’d need to be 5 feet and below whereas really tall would mean 5’8″ or over.
To be considered short (or likewise, tall), the title is closely aligned to a person’s nationality or country of origin. Thus, for females to be thought of as short, or tall for that matter, it is a difference of 2 to 3 inches from the national mean height for females. For our purposes in this article whenever math is used, I’ll take the 2 inches difference.
Are women getting shorter in the US?
No, women are not getting shorter in the US. In fact, over the past hundred years, women’s average heights have increased two inches or so according to some studies. With each generation there has been a slight increase in both male and female heights (for the most part globally, too) but it’s becoming less and less of a change recently.
The increase is due to improvements in health, nutrition, and lifestyle over the decades. This is also why the increase is slowing and the improvements are not as vast. U.S. nutrition has changed from not enough to too much large improvements aren’t a real possibility.
However, there is some debate that certain low economical areas are showing a decline in height with newer generations. Further research is needed to address and corroborate this concern.
To read about the shortest woman, living or dead, as well as a plethora of other extreme facts, usual and unusual, you can purchase the 2022 Guinness World Record from Amazon or your local book store.
For comparison, you might like to read this article: What Is Considered Short For A Man? (Revealed)
What is considered short for women in other countries?
Worldwide, it’s a range of heights to determine what’s short for a women, though all countries would find women below 5 feet short for the most part. To be exact though, it really just depends upon the country/region. For instance, while 5 feet 4 is thought short in Netherlands, it’s tall for a woman in Guatemala.
Comparably, 5’3” is short for women in Germany, but it is average for women in China.
To stress it again, the mean height or average for males or females of a country is really what determines the definition of short (or average, or tall). You have to look at the averages first. Generally, though, for a global view, one can say the shortest women (and men) live in South East Asia, Latin America, and East African countries (Source: The Lancet).
Overview of What’s Short Around the World
Women around the world have a wide range of heights, but in reality it is just 7 and a half inches different from the tallest average to the shortest.
One commonality, though, to recognize is that the average height for women in any country is going to be shorter than the average height for males in that same country. No where do women averages exceed male averages.
As well, the female average for height positively correlates with male averages of height, meaning where men are on average shorter, so are females and vice versa. However, the ranking of countries for shortest women varies slightly than the ranking of countries for shortest men, meaning the order isn’t exactly alike.
Different Women’s Heights Across The Globe
- Montenegro and Netherlands tie for the tallest average height for women at 1.7 meters (or 5 feet 7 inches) tall.
- Unlike Timor-Leste with male height, it’s Guatemala that has the shortest average for women out of all countries at 1.51 meters (or 59.45 inches).
- Nine countries, including the US, South Korea, and China, average 5’4″ for women’s height, so in these countries women need to be 5’2″ and below to be considered short.
- An average height for women in the Philippines is 5’0″, so a short women of 5’2″ in the U.S. would be tall living in the Philippines.
- The averages for women’s height goes from 1.51 meters (Guatemala) on the low end to 1.70 meters (Netherlands and Montenegro) on the high end, which is a range (difference) of .19 meters or 7.5 inches.
Remember that for a woman to be thought of as ‘short’, you would subtract two (or three) inches from the average women’s height of where she lives.
The Shortest Countries for Women- RANKED
Let’s now consider just the top countries for shortest women’s average height around the world.
To make this visually easier, I created a table below that displays the country with women’s average in both meters and inches. As well, I’ve listed male averages for the same countries for simpler comparison, too.
For reference, the data I used was taken from a longitudinal, comprehensive study of 65 million, both males and females, from age 5 through their 19th year, presumably the time when most people have reached their maximum height, in over 200 countries around the world.
|Ranking||Country||Female Height |
(in meters & inches)
| Male Height |
(in meters & inches)
|1||Guatemala||1.51 meters (59.45 inches)||1.64 meters (64.57 inches)|
|2||Bangladesh||1.52 meters (59.84 inches)||1.65 meters (64.96 inches)|
|3||Nepal||1.52 meters (59.84 inches)||1.64 meters (64.57 inches)|
|4||Timor-Leste||1.52 meters (59.84 inches)||1.59 meters (62.60 inches)|
|5||Madagascar||1.53 meters (60.24 inches)||1.65 meters (64.96 inches)|
|6||Laos||1.53 meters (60.24 inches)||1.62 meters (63.78 inches)|
|7||Maldives||1.54 meters (60.63 inches)||1.68 meters (66.14 inches)|
|8||Pakistan||1.54 meters (60.63 inches)||1.67 meters (65.74 inches)|
|9||Peru||1.54 meters (60.63 inches)||1.66 meters (65.35 inches)|
|10||Indonesia||1.54 meters (60.63 inches)||1.66 meters (65.35 inches)|
From the number one shortest average to the number ten, there’s a difference of just .03 meters or 1.18 inches. In actuality, this doesn’t amount to much, being that it’s just over an inch difference but take it from someone on that short spectrum, an inch can feel like quite a bit!
But when comparing the shortest average (‘Miss Guatemala’ at 1.51 meters) and the tallest (‘Miss Montenegro’ at 1.7), that’s when things get quite noticeable. Standing side by side, there’s a difference of over 7 inches and for women, that’s vast!
Now to really consider all things short, let’s now consider what’s short in these respective countries, knowing now the averages.
What is considered short for women in the following countries?
- Guatemala – 57.45 inches (4’9″)
- Bangladesh – 57.84 inches (4’9″)
- Nepal – 57.84 inches (4’9″)
- Timor-Leste – 57.84 inches (4’9″)
- Madagascar – 58.24 inches (4’10″)
- Laos – 58.24 inches (4’10”)
- Maldives- 58.63 inches (4’10”)
- Pakistan- 58.63 inches (4’10”)
- Peru- 58.63 inches (4’10”)
- Indonesia- 58.63 inches (4’10”)
What determines how short a woman will be?
What it is that makes women the height that they will become? Can vitamins and supplements, or gadgets even, help one be taller? Well, to be clear, it’s a strongly held belief by professionals that there’s a maximum potential set by heredity for each and every person. This means genetics, that is ‘biology’, determines the tallest one can be.
However, just as strongly, experts say that what helps one reach that potential is up to environment.
This is made up of nutrition and a person’s care and overall health. For instance, if a child, is malnourished, then she won’t reach her full height ability. Likewise, if she is plagued by ill health, that may affect height, too.
Nature Versus Nurture Debate for Height (Short Women)
So, what defines or makes a short woman, tall girl, or just average height female? What is it that causes some women to be shorter than their children and others to be taller than their husbands?
Again, if a woman is said to be average height in the UK or US, she is likely about 5 feet 4 inches. What does it mean to say nature and nurture control a woman’s height? Here are some parts of that.
- What a female eats growing up through late adolescence affects her height. Thus, being a picky toddler and a weight-conscious tween can shave off several inches from one’s potential height at adulthood.
- A person’s ethnicity also has biologic inclinations. For instance, non-Hispanic White American females are taller than Black, Hispanic, and Asian American girls.
- It’s debatable, but some research says that the age when a girl reaches puberty can affect her adult height.
- The extent of physical and mental health play a large role, too. If a person is sick during growth years, height can be affected.
There are several formula methods that even medical specialists and experts credit with quasi-accuracy for predicting height. Parents can use either (or all) to get a close approximation of their child’s expected height.
I tried two kinds to predict our daughter’s height: the math formula and online calculator. I am 5 feet 1 inch (61 inches) and my husband is 6 feet 1 inch (73 inches). Using the math formula of adding our inches, then subtracting 5 for a girl, and finally, dividing by 2, our daughter should be 5 feet and 4.5 inches.
And using the online calculator, like this one, our daughter should be 5 feet 5 inches.
To Alexis Grace Booe’s utter displeasure, she falls short of both predictions at her 5’3″. Though I urged her to be happy, since she’s a solid inch taller than dear old mom!
However, when I used the same height calculator with my own parents height, I came out exactly as expected. Guess that’s why the experts say it works!
“It’s also important to note that children grow at different rates. Some children begin their growth phases early, while others are late bloomers.”Mayo Clinic
Therefore, when thinking about height predictors and expectations, it’s important to remember that every person is unique and grows at his or her own rate when looking at a child’s height expectations.
Another article about women is What Is Considered Tall For A Woman? (Explained)
The Shortest Woman Alive
The current record holder, according to Guinness World Records, for the shortest woman alive is Jyoti Kisanji Amge, born on December 16, 1993.
Born in India, Jyoti, stands at 2 feet tall, and is unquestionably small in size but has a big personality. This has undoubtedly helped parlay her unique situation into celebrity status in India, as well as TV specials on TLC.
“Getting this record has made me feel better about myself. I feel popular, special and important,”Jyoti, 2011
Before that, the shortest recorded living woman was Pauline Musters who measured just 30 centimeters at birth in 1876 Netherlands. And at her death at age 19 in New York, the post mortem measurement was exactly 24 inches (with some length added posthumously according to the attending).
To read more on height issues, check out some of our other articles…
When is it a problem for women to be short?
I can honestly say being short is something that affects me everyday; I am constantly reminded that things don’t ‘fit’ me based on my height. From not being able to utilize upper cabinets and closet space without assistance to having to gingerly step up into our family jeep or even onto the bed each night, my short stature is evident.
In my house you’ll frequently hear me calling out for a ‘tall person’, that is my teen sons or husband, to come help me get something.
However, none of those issues are really that bad, in the grand scheme of things, so to speak. It also is something I’ve learned to live with and accept over the course of my many years, too.
But let’s take a look at common problems affecting women considered ‘short’ by most standards (5’2″ and below).
- Feet that don’t touch the floor when sitting
- Problems driving vehicles because the steering wheel and gas/brake pedals are not accommodating for less than average height people
- Problems getting into larger vehicles like trucks, jeeps, and SUVs
- Neck and shoulder/back pains from regularly looking up or adjusting for height
- Expense of tailoring clothes that commonly don’t fit off the rack
- Weight gain due to height disparity
- Not being taken seriously
- Not being able to reach items on shelves
- Being pushed in crowds
- Being overlooked
And I feel I could go on a bit more with this list, but will stop for the sake of belaboring a point.
It is also common for short people to face discrimination in the workplace. For example, one Australian study found that tall people are more likely to be in positions of power and to earn more money.
Is being a short woman a problem in Hollywood?
Being short doesn’t seem to be a stumbling block for working as an actress in Hollywood if you fall between 5 feet and 5 feet 4 inches.
Some busy, popular actresses in Hollywood that fall between this range are Reese Witherspoon, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Anna Kendrick, Scarlet Johansson, Salma Hayek, Hayden Panettiere, America Ferrera, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Since it’s expected that female leads are shorter than their male co-stars, being short(er) has it’s advantages too I imagine.
Famous Short Women
There have been some notable short women historically, too. From writers to painters to royalty, some women are as well known for their diminutive height as they are for their impressive achievements.
- Literary giant, Charlotte Bronte, was recorded as 4′ 10″ in height.
- Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, was 5 feet 3 inches.
- Queen Victoria, who ushered in the Victorian era of over 63 years, stood a petite 5’0″.
- Rosa Parks, known for refusing to give up her front seat on a Montgomery bus, stood at 5 feet 3 inches.
- Rita Moreno, the first Latino to achieve EGOT status (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards), is 5 feet 2 inches.
- Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest, was just 5 feet.
- Tegla Loroupe, from Kenya, won the New York marathon in 1994 and stands 5 feet 1 inch in height.
- Gymnast and two-time Olympian, Simone Biles, is 4 feet 8 inches in height.
The Takeaway for Short Women
To sum it all up, being considered short is really tied to geography. First one must know the average heights for a region and then, subtract two-three inches from that. Then, the ‘short’ definition is determined-again, for that area.
What’s short in one country can be completely average (or even tall) in another.
There are also other truths about height that one can draw:
- Regardless of region, women are on average shorter than men.
- Short areas for women are also short areas for men.
- Overall, people have grown in average height over the past decades, but the rate of growth has slowed down slightly in recent years.
- Height is mostly set by genetics/biology, but environmental factors determine how much of one’s potential is maximized.
- Exercise, diet, supplements, and drugs will not add any height above what a woman (or man) is predisposed to reaching based on genetics.
- Nutrition, quality of life, and overall health play strong parts in one reaching potential height.
- There are height formulas that are relatively accurate for predicting children’s adult height.
For further reading, I recommend Can Short Parents Have A Tall Child? (Discover The Truth)