The Daughter Effect

Father’s Day is this weekend. It’s a good opportunity to celebrate our dads, but at the same time, to look at the impact that children can have on their parents.

Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than in the workplace, where I’ve seen visible changes in the way men manage when they have children. One manager, who oversaw a team of twelve people, was known for his brash style—a rough, impatient approach to one-on-ones and documented awkwardness outside of official interactions.

Fatherhood changed him almost immediately. It began even before his daughter was born, but it was after he returned from two weeks off with his wife and new child that you could see the difference. He was exhausted and yet slightly more patient in meetings, and most interesting of all, less prone to the bouts of condescension many men display with female reports and colleagues. He wasn’t a completely different person, but the changes were noticed throughout the company. This was a man impacted by the “daughter effect.”

The Research Behind the Daughter Effect

We’ve all seen the anecdotal evidence that a child can change how a man manages, and a daughter in particular can have a tremendous impact, but recent research has gone a step further to quantify what this impact looks like.

In a recent Harvard University study, Paul Gompers and Sophie Wang wanted to see what impact the hiring of more women managers had on VC management firms. Not surprisingly, VC investing, a largely male industry, is not at the forefront of diversity in the workplace. In fact, only 8% of the new hires made in the study (covering 301 firms and 988 funds) were women. And the numbers were even more sparse when you considered the number of firms that hired more than one woman.

To better understand not only the impact of hiring women in these firms, but also the factors that actually led the firms to do so, the researchers looked at the number of daughters among the children of the partners at these agencies. The results were enlightening.

VC partners with one more daughter than sons employed 2% more women managers and were 24% more likely to have a senior female manager on staff. Those same firms were 3% more likely to have successful deals.

Another study, of Danish workers, several years ago found that when a male CEO had a daughter, the wage gap closed by an average of 0.5%. If their first-born child was a daughter, that gap closed by as much as 3%. The implication of these studies is that male managers who have daughters shift their workplaces slightly toward greater equality.

How a Daughter Changes a Male Manager

The data implies that men with daughters are more likely to hire and empower women in the workplace, but what does this mean for your workplace, and how do you better work with male colleagues under the influence of the daughter effect?

The first thing to keep in mind is that the daughter effect does not exactly level the playing field. While the statistics are interesting, the results in the Danish study were most prominent in smaller firms where CEOs had direct control over most of their staff. Larger firms saw much smaller results.

Men with daughters may be more cognizant of the differences and challenges women face, but does this make them advocates for change or is it a more subconscious impact? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that the shift in mindset changes enough to create change.

Working Together to Achieve Gender Equality

Gender equality in the workplace is a goal we must all champion on a daily basis. As mothers and sisters, we have the opportunity to educate the next generation and plant the seeds for constant improvement, so it doesn’t have to wait for a man to have a daughter. Whether the changes are conscious or not, we should not rely on the filial relations of men in management to lift women and treat women equally.

Yet these are great opportunities to leverage what is almost certainly a new perspective in the lives of these men—helping them to go beyond whatever changes occur to them when a daughter comes into their lives.

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