Monday, November 14, 2011

When Daddy is CEO - WAPPP Seminar Series

The Man: David Ross, Assistant Professor of Management, Columbia University
The Talk: Like Daughter, Like Father: How Employees’ Wages Change When CEOs Have Daughters
The Question: Do people get paid more if their CEOs have daughters?

Daddy's little girl may be a boost to his workforce -- in Denmark, at least. Recent research by David Ross of Columbia University in the country suggests that when male CEOs have daughters, they tend to on average pay their employees more than if they have boys.


It's a thorny issue. Some people (including some who attended the seminar) may balk at the idea that men think more like women once they have daughters. But these are exactly the assumptions the study uses to conduct its research. Ross's intuition based on his own experience having daughters got him thinking that:
  • When anybody has a child, they tend to start thinking about the well-being of others.
  • This proximity matters when it comes to leading a group of employees
  • When men in particular have girls, they may be more conscious of having to protect/care for someone's well-being -- a "nurture" effect that women tend to exhibit more often.
The results of the research back up Ross's claim: On average, men pay their employees o.4% more when they have daughters. What's more:
  • This only happens when have their first daughter. It doesn't happen with subsequent children.
  • People who are closer in proximity to the CEO - ie, higher rank in the company - also tend to get paid more than people who know the CEO less or are a lower rank.
  • The age and education of the CEO don't really matter - the effect is the same across all groups.
The limitations of the study are many, however. Chiefly, can the Danish example be extrapolated to other countries where gender parity is worse, or where parents do not share the same burden of raising a child? What if the effect is actually negative - that is, daughters don't have an effect at all, but having a son actually makes CEOs pay employees less? And since the data only analyzes numbers, we can't make a causal claim by observing behavior: our evidence is at best circumstantial.

At the very least, Ross's research backs up the idea that the wage gap persists, and that seemingly innocuous variables like the gender of a CEO's child can make a difference.

*Photo Courtesy Smithsonian Magazine

Effie-Michelle Metallidis is a guest student blogger for the Women and Public Policy Program and Master in Public Policy first-year student at Harvard Kennedy School.

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