April 15, 2011 5:05 pm

Something for the weekend

The gender wage gap - where men earn more than women even though both sexes may have the same job description, experience and education - is a well-documented phenomenon.

This phenomenon holds true even for countries which are known for their egalitarian approach to gender pay in both the private and the public sector such as Denmark. The fact that such a gap still occurs in such an egalitarian society would suggest that factors other than intentional policy might be to blame, says David Gaddis Ross, an assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School.

Prof Ross, with co-authors Michael Dahl of Aalborg University in Denmark and Cristian Dezso an assistant professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland suggest that gender pay differential may be due to social and psychological factors, namely the perception “that men’s attitudes towards women and gender equity are affected by the gender of their children”.

“The idea is that a father who has daughters may become more sympathetic and understanding toward women’s issues and that these issues may become more salient to a man who was already sympathetic to them,” says Prof Ross.

The academics were interested to discover if a male chief executive officer became the father of a daughter he might be more motivated to implement wage policies within his company that would help to narrow the wage gap.

Using Denmark as the setting, the academics studied the male CEOs of companies before and after they had become a father to a daughter. They discovered that a short while after a CEO had had a daughter the wages of women employees did indeed increase relative to their male peers, therefore reducing the wage gap. First daughters, who were also the first born children had an even bigger effect than subsequent daughters.

The researches found that the impact was even more significant at those companies with 50 or fewer employees which they believe was due to the fact that in a smaller company the CEO tended to be more directly involved in decision making.

“There is something about a female child,” Ross says, “that makes these issues more salient to male CEOs.”

“Like daughter, like father: how women’s wages change when CEOs have daughters” can be found at Columbia Ideas at Work.

Making your own teddybear with your child, baking a cake using a packet cake mix, or even assembling a flatpack wardrobe; we are all familiar with manufacturers who rely on the customer to assume much of the production costs.

Now, research from three academics has found that when a customer has to construct his or her product, they subsequently value it far more. In a series of studies participants were asked to assemble boxes from the Swedish manufacturer Ikea, build sets of Lego and also make origami paper objects.

Once they had successfully completed these tasks participants believed that their items had the same value as those of the experts and moreover believed this opinion should be shared by others.

Michael Norton, an associate professor of business administration in the marketing department of Harvard Business School, Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioural economics at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University and Daniel Mochon, a post-doctoral fellow in marketing at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego describe this as the “Ikea effect - the increase in valuation of self-made products”.

However, the researchers say that self assembly of a product only “leads to increased valuation when a product is successfully put together, for those who were unable to construct the product or destroyed their creations the effect was dissipated”.

The Ikea effect: when labour leads to love is published by Harvard Business School.

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