Organisations led by married CEOs are more likely to support hiring and promotion of women, minorities and disabled employees, new research has found.
Married men in the top leadership jobs typically have greater concern for their employees' well-being, and are more accepting of diverse employees, than are their non-married peers, showed the findings published in the Journal of Corporate Finance.
"What we found was absolutely fascinating," said study co-author Shantaram Hegde, Professor at University of Connecticut in the US.
"We were able to build on social-science studies that found that married life is a catalyst for nourishing pro-social values and preferences among family members," Hegde said.
For the study, the researchers analysed 2,163 US public corporations, from 1993 to 2008.
Organisations with married CEOs accounted for about 86 per cent of those studied. The average age of the CEOs in the sample was about 55, with roughly six years of tenure with the company.
Firms led by married CEOs were associated with significantly higher scores on a respected corporate social responsibility index, the results showed.
Corporate social responsibility is broadly defined as a firm's commitment to minimising the potential harmful effects of its operations on its stakeholders and maximising its long term beneficial impact on society.
While unmarried CEOs do not ignore corporate social responsibility codes and standards, and may raise concerns about compliance with norms and laws, they seem to show less commitment to other corporate social responsibility programmes, the authors found.
To further scrutinise the findings, the researchers reviewed companies that had transitioned to new CEOs with a different marital status from their predecessors. The dataset of 3,466 firms indicated notable changes in corporate social responsibility following the transition.
"We found a significant drop in average corporate social responsibility results when a company transitioned from a married to an unmarried CEO," Hegde said.
Although businesses today are seeking leaders who are committed to their shareholders, they are increasingly concerned about the social impact of their businesses, ranging from the environment to employee relations, Hegde said.
The modern-day CEO must balance the demands of profit maximisation with social obligations, he said.