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CEOs’ (and Coaches’) Decisions May Be Shaped by Whether They Have Daughters

This latest Wall Street Journal article struck a chord. Becoming a parent has certainly transformed my way of coaching and having a daughter has transformed my way of thinking. Both my kids have made me a better coach, and my daughter has made me a better coach of and for women.

CEOs’ Decisions May Be Shaped by Whether They Have Daughters

A study finds that chief executives with daughters rank higher for social responsibility

The Wall Street Journal
By Cheryl Winokur Munk
Dec. 3, 2017 10:13 p.m. ET

Recent research suggests one possible way of reducing perceived inequalities in the workplace: Hire CEOs with daughters.

A handful of studies that look at decision-making by chief executives, legislators, judges and venture capitalists suggest those who have daughters are more likely to make decisions that favor more equitable treatment of women.

A newly published study in the December issue of the Journal of Financial Economics shows that CEOs who have daughters scored higher in a measure of corporate social responsibility, says co-author Henrik Cronqvist, chairman of the department of finance at the University of Miami School of Business Administration. The study is an update of one that was initially released in 2015.

Merely having a daughter opens executives’ eyes to gender-related issues that they might not otherwise be aware of, says Dr. Cronqvist, who co-wrote the study with Frank Yu, associate professor of finance at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.

The study found that when a CEO has a daughter, the company’s corporate-social-responsibility rating—a third-party measure of how companies stack up on community, diversity, employee relations and other metrics—is about 9.1% higher than that of a median firm. The study analyzed familial information of 416 CEOs from S&P 500 companies.

“The research was designed to show causality and go beyond just saying there is a correlation,” Dr. Cronqvist says. As evidence, he points to data from the study that show when a new CEO who has a daughter comes on board, the company becomes more socially responsible. The opposite happens when a CEO without a daughter joins the company.

“Clearly, not all companies have the same approach,” Dr. Cronqvist says, but it’s important for companies to recognize “that different CEOs are shaped by different experiences.” Having a daughter isn’t the only factor shaping how CEOs act, but “it’s an important factor,” he says.

It all makes sense to other experts. “Fathers of daughters want their daughters to have equal opportunities in the world,” says Barbara J. Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies gender issues. “They see the inequities that women face, and that makes them more open to thinking about inequity in general.”

The theme of gender influencing parental decision-making is present in other research as well. A 2008 American Economic Review paper found that U.S. congressmen vote “more liberally,” especially on issues affecting women, when they have more daughters. Federal judges (primarily Republicans) with daughters consistently vote “in a more feminist fashion” on gender issues than judges with only sons, says a 2015 paper in the American Journal of Political Science. Also, a working paper by two Harvard University professors offers evidence that parenting more daughters drives leaders of venture-capital firms to hire more female partners.

The daughters effect shows how important personal relationships can be in shaping people’s policy preferences, ideology and decisions, says Maya Sen, associate professor of public policy at Harvard and co-author of the study on judges.

Ms. Winokur Munk is a writer in West Orange, N.J. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

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