Are daughters the secret weapon in creating inclusive leaders?

Father and daughter diversityA few months ago, I spoke with three male panelists at an event hosted by a major bank, on gender diversity in the City. After our panel, one of the fellow speakers came up to me and said with an almost furtive look: “I know what you mean about women changing the workplace. My daughter Sasha is doing her A-levels and she is amazing. She is such a hard worker. If anything, it’s actually my son, Scott who I’m worried about! Scott rarely comes out of his room and grunts at us all, but I can tell Sasha will go places.’

‘It’s hard to think of yourself as a brand, especially when I have four daughters who kick my butt early in the morning every day before I go to work’ – Harvey Weinstein

His was not the first comment of this kind I’ve heard. The good news is his willingness to take part on the panel to a largely female audience, talking about diversity – may have indeed been unknowingly affected by his love and admiration of Sasha. A surprising new study has revealed how the mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men into becoming more empathetic and generous leaders.

In a study done on Fatherhood and Management, researchers tracked the wages male chief executives at more than 10,000 Danish companies paid their employees over a period of ten years. On average, after becoming fathers, the executives paid about $100 less in annual compensation per employee. However, the changes in pay depended on the gender of the new-born child! Data consistently showed that wages were reduced when a boy was born, but not when it was a daughter.

To explain the empathy this study demonstrates, but also fathers of older daughters often demonstrate, the researchers Andrew Oswald at the University of Warwick and Nattavudh Powdthavee, then at the University of York argue: ‘A father takes on some of the preferences of his female offspring,” For male chief executives, this daughter-driven empathy spike may account for more generous impulses toward employees that temper the temptation toward wage cuts.

An article in The New York Times on ‘Why Men Need Women’ commented, “Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more care-taking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters’ hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented.” Repeated studies have shown that women in the role of mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and colleagues have a profoundly positive influence on the men around them.

Do you think male leaders with daughters are more likely to ‘get’ diversity?

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