Dahl, Dezső, & Ross (2012). Fatherhood and Managerial Style: How a Male CEO’s Children Affect the Wages of His Employees

Michael S. Dahl (md@business.aau.dk)
Cristian L. Dezső (cdezso@rhsmith.umd.edu)
David Gaddis Ross (dr2175@columbia.edu)

Johan Chu (johanchu@umich.edu)
Ivana Naumovska (i-naumovska@kellogg.northwestern.edu)

Article link:      http://asq.sagepub.com/content/57/4/669

Question 1. This is a fascinating paper, both in its subject matter and its rhetorical strategy (it was refreshing to see a quantitative paper that eschewed the rigid hypothesis-test framework). How did you end up with this paper? What path led you to this setting, finding, and framing?

All three of the authors are very interested in the internal dynamics of firms and in particular whether and how top managers impact firm outcomes. We are also all three fathers and can identify, at least in a general way, with the idea that fatherhood is life changing and thereby has the potential to change the way top managers manage their firms. In addition, focusing on the birth of a child rather than just the number of children of a top manager allowed us to exploit the random nature of the gender of a newborn to provide evidence of a causal relationship between top managers and firm outcomes. We eschewed formal hypotheses because we wanted to accurately convey the spirit of the study: it is using what we would like to believe is an elegant empirical design and an interesting research question to develop new theoretical possibilities rather than an attempt to test existing theory using formal hypotheses.

Question 2. You make a strong case that fatherhood and other “external”, “personal” factors matter for organizations because such factors affect top managers’ values. Can you speculate a bit on how much the actual findings of the study (daughters have a less negative influence on wages and female employees are in general less adversely affected) would be similar or different across countries and cultures? For example, countries like India where having daughters creates future costs (in dowries), or other non-Danish Western countries (e.g., the U.S. where CEOs are paid more compared to average workers)?

First, let us clarify that “CEO” in our study refers to the “boss” of all but the smallest firms, which we exclude. We do not necessarily mean the CEO of a large, public firm. One is always hesitant to argue forcefully that the results of a given study will obtain in a different context but we would not be surprised to see similar results in other countries. Virtually all of the laboratory studies that we cite in our theoretical motivation, for example, were conducted outside Scandinavia. Other results related to gender, moreover, are remarkably stable across countries, for example, the degree to which women are particularly underrepresented in senior business positions. Having said that, we agree that in cultures whereby women face a discriminatory environment from childhood or even from birth, our results could be different. This would be an interesting question to study.

Question 3. You draw upon literature on the effect of children on their parents to frame your findings. An especially intriguing finding from your paper was that there was a strong relationship between the birth of a first son and an increase in salaries (generosity) towards female employees and decrease in salaries (stinginess) towards male employees (p. 682). This is a striking result! You argue that this result obtains because CEOs become more selfish with each child, but a first child positively affects male CEOs’ attitudes towards women. Could you explain further how you see the two changes (more selfish yet more pro-female) interacting? Are there other predictions (perhaps in other settings) we can make using these two effects? How would a similar situation affect female top managers?

In general, one could hypothesize that, following the birth his first child, a male CEO could change a number of firm policies to be more advantageous to women. Examples include maternity leave and other accommodations for motherhood, more opportunities for promotion for women, etc. Yet, at the same time, the CEO would be less generous in general towards his male employees, with respect to these same dimensions and others. It is also possible that the birth and gender of a child could more generally impact gender dynamics in the workplace, whereby male employees would evaluate more highly the work of their female colleagues or superiors, or would work more effectively in mixed-gender teams. With regard to the impact of the birth of a child to a female top manager on firm outcomes, we view this as an interesting question for future research.

Question 4. You have a very nice data source! The Scandinavian countries seem to have available many rich and comprehensive datasets for organizational research. Could you give us some tips for accessing these databases? Are there any sources you think particularly intriguing for organizational scholars?

The Danish data has been used by many researchers at this point. Usually, a Dane needs to be part of the research team to access the data, but there is a strong trend towards more openness. Statistics Denmark is doing more and more to open up access to non-Danish researchers with the use of secure online systems.

Question 5. What question did we miss? Please ask yourselves a good question, and answer it.

We hope that our study is received in the spirit in which it was conducted, namely as one small step into a new and largely understudied area: how parenthood and other large life events change the way people do business – for instance, could the birth and gender of a child impact firm performance more generally? In that regard, while we quite like our results, we think they may be less important in the end than the encouragement we give to others to pursue their own questions in this domain. We also think that the research design may be a model for other researchers to follow.

One comment

  1. […] with Chad McPherson and Mike Sauder about their article on drug court deliberations, with Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezső, and David Ross on CEO fatherhood and its effect on employee wages, and András Tilcsik and Chris Marquis about […]

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