Dads of daughters more supportive of gender equality

A new study provides evidence that decision-makers’ personal relationships matter when it comes to how they approach gender equality at work and suggests campaigners should play on those to create a greater sense of allyship.

Father with two sons and one daughter

Dads more likely to question gender stereotypes if they have a daughter

Having daughters can permanently affect male CEOs’ gender-related attitudes in business, human resourcing and governance priorities, making them more inclined towards supporting women’s struggles for equality, according to new research.

The study from Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University found that fathering an additional daughter versus a son is associated with a substantial increase in female director representation. This daughter-to-father effect gradually matures as daughters grow up and socialise in schools and workplaces, and it increases as daughters age, suggesting, say the researchers, that male founders learn from their daughters about the constraints women face, especially when their daughters are exposed to gendered norms in adolescence and early adulthood.

In general, they say, when daughters suffer gender disparity, fathers are physically and socioemotionally affected and are better able to understand and sympathise with the problems women can face in society. This encourages them to become involved in the struggle for greater gender equality.

Lead researcher Dr Zhiyan Wu says: “The CEOs that we studied spoke to us about how their corporate decisions have changed after their first-hand learnings from their growing daughters about the constraints women often face. They recognised that those constraints had escaped from their attention till their daughters became potentially vulnerable to those constraints in their adolescence and early adulthood.”

“Privilege is invisible to those who have it. Men have such a ‘privilege’ and often do not realise the constraints women face. Vicarious exposures to such constraints via loved ones can nudge reflections. Those seeking to cultivate a more gender egalitarian economy may benefit from highlighting the personal stakes and responsibilities of male leaders in helping build a gender-equal society for their loved ones and not only for women in general.”

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