THE BLOG

The 'Women' Effect: Women Have More Influence on Men's Behavior Than Previously Thought, and It's Changing Corporate America

07/23/2013 04:29 pm ET | Updated Sep 22, 2013

Fairly early in my career in the '80s as the founder and CEO of USA Networks, I would often be asked by journalists what it was like to be a CEO in the land of men. We were heavily in the sports business then, and yes, it's fair to say it was the land of men. Why weren't there more women in key management roles?

I decided to take a longer view in answering this question. I said that women were just getting started in corporate careers. "When the men who make many of the decisions have daughters who grow up I said, times will change."

Well, I was right about change, but wrong about daughters; I should have said granddaughters, because it seems we skipped a whole generation on our way to get women in the C-Suite. I have not lost faith in the influence women have on men, and finally this influence is working its way into the corner office as to the value that women bring to performance.

The New York Times recently published a piece titled "Why Men Need Women" that refers to a provocative new study by Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross, titled, "Fatherhood and Managerial Style: How a Male CEO's Children Affect the Wages of His Employees," about what inspires generosity in wealthy men. I don't think they knew where this was going when they started out, but they tracked male CEOs and the gender of their offspring. While there are other findings offered, among them is that even the birth of a daughter correlates with CEOs being more generous in employee compensation and benefits than the birth of a son. This study was conducted among 10,000 companies in Denmark, so it has to be taken as research among a fairly homogenous population, but there is plenty of evidence in it that gender has a more profound impact of the actions of men than we thought. Mothers and even sisters have a keen correlation to the generosity of men.

The article also points out that the "warming effect" women have on men has implications for education and work. We can see from examples of diverse cooperation among divergent groups of students working together in organizations such as iearn, that the learning experience is enriched. At iearn, teachers and students from countries around the globe select subjects to study in cross-cultural collaboration.

In the workplace, there is plenty of evidence that women in leadership positions prompt more collaboration, transparency and collaborative decision making. In a recently produced paper, "Does Female Representation in Top Management Improve Firm Performance? A Panel Data Investigation In Strategic Management," Dezso and Ross show that companies have more women in key management roles; they improve the performance of companies on average 1 percent. While that might not seem that much, for the companies in the group analyzed, this meant more than $40 million.

In their recently published book The Athena Doctrine, authors John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio surveyed 64,000 people in business in nations around the globe for gender attributes among 125 different personality traits. By overwhelming margins, the attributes most relevant for leadership today are those most frequently assigned to women: collaboration, transparency, inclusion, mentoring and innovation.

While there is growing evidence that women are having an impact on the performance of companies and corporate boards, we might not have realized the positive effect women have on the behavior of men. Thanks to the new Danish study, it's now official.