When my daughter was born, a close friend of ours said, “Have you noticed that sensitive men often have a daughter as their first born?” That nugget of an observation stuck somewhere in my sleep-deprived maternal brain, and over the years I’ve found myself referring to that theory many times.
I would look at male friends and relatives and colleagues to see who were considerate towards others, who had a smile or a shoulder to offer, who would be a sport as a punching bag, or be frank and forthright. My conclusions? There’s definitely some truth to what the friend observed! In fact, knowing who has a daughter as their first-born is something I’ve used as a good test for digging out what melts and matures men.
I was reminded of that when I read recently about a study of American judges done by Maya Sen of the University of Rochester and Adam Glynn of Harvard. They looked at over 200 US judges and their decisions or votes in 2500 cases and found that apart from law and ideology there’s a third factor that influences their decision: personal experience.
The study showed that Supreme Court judges with at least one daughter were more likely to vote in favor of women’s rights than judges who had no children at all or who had only sons. Among judges who had one child, those who had daughters were 16% more likely to decide in favor of women’s rights.
In a New York Times article, Professor Sen says that “things like having daughters can actually fundamentally change how people view the world, and this, in turn, affects how they decide cases.” (See the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/us/judges-with-daughters-more-often-rule-in-favor-of-womens-rights.html?_r=0)
But why are people who are among the most learned and unbiased showing a marked skew like this? Could it be that they are more sensitive to these issues as they see their daughters come up against gender barriers they themselves have never faced?
If yes, hurray! Empathy sure is a powerful thing.
Coming back to my ‘study’ based on my friend’s theory – I then decided to test it a little further by looking at the father and daughter relationship from the daughters point of view.
And that’s when (Bingo!) another gem of an insight fell into place for me: Daughters have a way with their dads. It’s amazing how a tough boss or colleague can turn into putty when they are faced with their daughters. Suddenly they seem to have all the patience and the listening ability that you had never known existed!
In the corporate world too, the dad who at work lives on quarter-to-quarter results, a cost driven schedule, a typical alpha male, can develop empathy. A daughter can help him change and start to understand things from another person’s perspective – maybe even allow people another chance!
And guess what! A Danish study from 2011 also came to a similar conclusion when they looked at male CEOs at over 6000 firms. That study found that a short time after male CEOs had daughters, women’s wages in the company rose relative to men’s. The birth of a son, however, had no effect on the wage gap. Wow!
It’s so good to read all this. Because it’s based on ‘science’ and research rather than anecdotal observations or gutfeel.
I hope now that more and more such studies will come out to ‘prove’ what nature has always known, and what I’m sure every man also knows deep inside – there can be no balance in mankind without equality of womankind.
Even men with no daughters should be able to recognise that fact!