How corporate fathers can learn from their daughters

Five male bosses whose daughters have encouraged them to advance the cause of women in business.

by Alison Maitland

Sometimes, it takes a personal revelation to start a business revolution. If you're the chief executive or chairman of a company, it's likely that you are male and middle-aged. You have had no experience of gender discrimination; the world is your oyster. The problems that women face in the workplace were something you were informed about, but their troubles remained nebulous. Then your daughter came along and her struggles got you thinking ...

Not long ago, one of the top US finance execs was giving a speech about why diversity was important to his company. He covered the usual points about the business case and the need to draw on the widest pool of candidates for top jobs. What grabbed his audience's attention, however, was a personal confession about the impact on his leadership style of having daughters. 'I've changed in response to the question: am I the boss I'd like my daughters to have?,' he said. He'd realised that he hadn't been.

Direct experience is often the most powerful way to open minds. Male business bosses of the older generation, including most of those interviewed here, typically have non-working wives. They remain unfamiliar with the issues women encounter in the workplace, until their daughters start out on their careers.

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