This year will mark the 45th year since Father’s Day became a nationwide holiday in the United States, 58 years after Mother’s Day was declared an official holiday. Father’s Day has an interesting history. Although, it wasn’t declared a holiday until 1972, it was first celebrated on June 19, 1910, thanks to Sonoroa Smart Dodd who was raised by her widower father. In 1909, Dodd drummed up interest and support for her idea by visiting local churches, YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials. She succeeded the very next year.
It’s a good thing, too. Many women enter the business world directly because of the influence and support of their fathers. They deserve a day of thanks, too.
Writer and journalist, Sharmilla Ganesan researched shared qualities of women leaders from various cultures. She found the father figure to be a great influence and stated, “All three of my interviewees pointed to the family environment they had been raised in—particularly a father figure who taught and empowered the women in the family to learn, ask questions, and form their own opinions—as a key factor in their own growth.”
I can attest to the influence of a father on his daughter. My father was a manager in a Navy shipyard. When I was 16, I applied to be an apprentice at the shipyard. I was the only girl in a group of 200 boys. My family didn’t have any qualms about my decision. My grandfather, uncle, and two cousins worked there; to me, it was natural for me to be there.
As women in the business world some of us are lucky to find “male champions” who play critical roles in our careers. What is it that the men do differently? An article in Harvard Business Review points to key behavioral themes that extend the support of women’s development and advancement. “Male champions” have a focus on
- gender equality
- belief that gender inclusiveness leads to effective talent management
- providing gender aware programs for mentoring and coaching
- practicing ‘other-focused leadership’
Which is why, when coupled together, “male champions” and fathers in significant positions who have daughters, may give us a stronger chance at closing the wage gap.
A 2011 study of Danish companies found that male CEOs were closing the gender pay gap after they became dads to daughters. The researchers studied the salaries of over 700,000 Danish workers at over 6,000 firms and found that a short time after male CEOs had daughters, women’s wages rose relative to men’s. The birth of a son, however, had no effect on the wage gap.
The “daughter effect” was strongest at companies with 50 or fewer employees, which could be attributed to the fact that CEOs of small companies have more direct influence over the pay of workers than CEOs of larger firms. It was also found that the more education female employees had, the daughter effect was stronger.
The researchers concluded male CEOs were more likely to envision these educated female employees as though they were their own daughters, who would most likely have more formal education. “Our results suggest that the first daughter ‘flips a switch’ in the mind of a male CEO, causing him to attend more to equity in gender-related wage policies.”
Working in the same shipyard as my father taught me that I can be equal in the eyes of the world. I learned a tremendous amount from working in a male dominated workplace, and it served me well in my future career as an executive in one of the world’s largest energy companies. It also provided the foundation for me to start my own company serving clients as an Executive Women’s Coach. A father’s influence can be key to encouraging young women to enter the business world, especially in male dominated environments.
Here’s to wishing all dads a Happy Father’s Day and special thanks for supporting your daughters!