It’s so easy to love a baby. The super-soft skin, the miniature fingers and toes, and the smell—pure heaven. Just being around a baby makes all of us—men or women—feel more gentle, more protective, more tender.
Yet it seems that girl babies, in particular, have a greater effect on their dads—they make them feel more generous, to the point of donating more to charity and paying their employees more. And this is backed up by research. In a fascinating new study, researchers found that the mere presence of female family members, even infants, was correlated with more giving. Male chief executives tended to raise wages for employees after the birth of a daughter, while the birth of a son caused executives to reduce wages for their workers (likely to claim more resources for his growing family).
As just one example of how the birth of a daughter can inspire greater generosity, twenty years ago Bill Gates was planning to wait a quarter century to start giving away his wealth, but a year later, after his marriage to Melinda and the birth of his daughter, he started the foundation that has made him one of the most generous philanthropists in history. He also credits his mother for influencing him to give.
And apparently girls also affect their brothers in a similar way. In his NY Times article “Why Men Need Women,” Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School who has written extensively about giving more to increase profits in business, writes, “Social scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers.” He cites studies that reveal that boys with more female siblings are spontaneously more generous. (This made sense to me, as my husband, who has a twin sister and thus spent nine months in close proximity to her, is an especially generous and compassionate human being.)
This spontaneous effect on men’s impulse to give more is also a reason for women to assume more leadership positions in society, says Grant. Just by being in the boardroom, for example, women can tilt the thinking to more compassion, to more inclusiveness, to freer sharing of information, to better treatment of employees.
And because women are also known to bring diverse perspectives, collaborative styles, dedication to mentoring and a keen understanding of female employees and customers, this can result in greater profits. “We already know from considerable research that companies are better off when they have more women in top management roles, especially when it comes to innovation,” writes Grant. He cites recent studies showing that between 1992 and 2006, companies that added women to their top management teams generated an average of 1 percent more economic value, which on average meant more than $40 million. But Grant goes on to wonder aloud whether some of these benefits come simply because the presence of women makes their male peers want to be better human beings.
I loved this idea, that women have a softening effect on men without even having to do anything extra. Just by being ourselves, we can change the world for the better.
I am reminded of this reality every day as I take time for my twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. As I close my eyes and allow my awareness to settle, I transcend the concerns of my daily life and sink into pure Being, the unified wholeness that is my own essence and the essence of every woman and man and creature and plant on earth. When I come out, I feel more peaceful, more harmonious, more happy. And that has an effect on everyone around me. Ask any mom or any school teacher—it’s the days when you feel tired and crabby that the children start fighting. When you’re relaxed, the kids respond to that calming influence and are calmer too.
As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique wrote in Science of Being and Art of Living more than 50 years ago, “Thought waves are much more powerful than the waves of speech and action. Through every thought, word, and action we are creating some wave in the atmosphere, but thought waves are especially penetrating. If we are joyful, happy, and full of kindness and love for the whole world, we receive love from every quarter.”
Based on my personal experience, and the research on the TM Technique, I feel that if women nourish themselves by dipping into the transcendent on a regular basis, they are better able to nourish their families, friends, employees, colleagues and communities—not by doing more, but by Being. What a wonderful thought—just by being our true selves, we can have a profound and lasting positive effect on those around us.
Linda Egenes is a health writer and author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.