Family Firms Help Women Excel In 2015

KENNESAW, Ga. (Aug 20, 2015) — As a corporate anthropologist and a daughter raised in a family business, I’ve worked with dozens of family firms. And I have a particular interest in how they adapt to an ever-evolving landscape – balancing family and business needs.

Considering that 90% of all U.S. firms are family-owned, family businesses form the backbone of the American economy. They also appear to value the contributions of women leaders more now than ever. Though progress is gradual, it’s still promising for today’s professional women.

Following are five top trends I’ve identified at family firms that offer significant benefits for women, especially compared to the challenges at many non-family firms.


1. More Women Are Recruited To Lead

Many new studies exist on the progression of female leadership in family businesses. KPMG reports that nearly 60% of family-owned businesses have women in top positions. That’s more than non-family businesses can claim with rates under 13%.

Peter Englisch, Global Head of EY’s Family Business Center of Excellence, illustrates the situation: “Some of the largest, longest-lasting family businesses in the world are moving women farther and faster than their non-family counterparts.”

Englisch’s evaluation is based on a 2015 EY/Kennesaw State University study that surveyed 25 of the largest family-owned businesses about women’s roles. Key findings included that:

Each company had an average of five women in the C-Suite.  And four others were being groomed for top leadership
Women compose 22% of the top management team
70% said they’re considering a woman as their next CEO.

2.  People-Oriented Cultures Help Women Ascend

At family firms both people and profits matter, which is a perfect culture for many women. The better women feel about the company, the greater the chance they will stay, grow and lead.

And the family firm’s commitment to people goes beyond its female family members to include non-family employees, too. That explains why some of the senior women in EY’s study were family members, but most were not.

Beyond offering the advantages of a people-oriented culture, many family firms also emphasize long-term, sustainable growth as a strategy, which “is a proven accelerator for women in leadership,” according to Joe Astrachan, Ph.D., Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Kennesaw State University.


3. Senior Women Mentor More Younger Women

Many senior women at family firms are now inspiring younger ones to aim high.

According to a study of 60 women leaders conducted by the International Consortium for Executive Development Research, these senior women didn’t have female role models in business.

So now they want to help younger women to navigate their careers successfully—increasing the number of women in boardrooms and boosting the company’s market value.


4. The “And Daughter” Movement Is Growing

While the first trends benefit women who are non-family and family members alike, there’s also a major push for daughters to elevate their roles in family businesses.

Reuters reports: “The Trump Organization… is at the forefront of one of the big changes at small companies: women are increasingly taking over top leadership roles.” Ivanka Trump, Donald’s daughter, is positioned as the next in line to grab the reins at her company.

And just last fall, two other high-profile daughters inspired headlines as they assumed command of their family companies: Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson and Santander Chairwoman Ana Botin.

Meanwhile, BBC News recently identified a new phenomenon among Millennial daughters: “As an increasing number of women are deciding on a career in business, many are choosing to join their dads.” The article then featured three dad-daughter duos, including Charleh and Peter Dickinson, who launched an online food company together called: Designed2Eat.

Dads aren’t the only ones teaming up with daughters. In 2007, Renee Sandler was tired of reading how few female CEOs led Fortune 500 companies and didn’t want her tween daughters, Melanie and Lily, to feel limited. So she helped them form their own business.

Fast-forward eight years, the mom-daughter trio now runs BLAMtastic, a fast-growing, multimillion-dollar CPG company. At just 17 and 18 now, Melanie and Lily lead the business with Renee.


5. Women-Owned Businesses Have Also Seen A Dramatic Increase

The Sandler’s story not only depicts the “And Daughter” movement, it shows what millions of other women do when they don’t see the right opportunities. They form their own family businesses.

The 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report states that during the past 18 years, the number of women-owned enterprises has soared by 74% (compared to just 51% for general businesses).

Today, women own an impressive 30 percent of all enterprises in the U.S. (9.4 million businesses), which employ a whopping 79 million people.

Given these encouraging trends at family firms, the power of professional women is on the rise—whether they’re leading venerable family businesses, forming a new firm with a parent, or launching one on their own.

Maintaining this momentum is important not only for women now and future generations, but our overall economic health.

Andrea Simon, Ph.D., principal and founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC), has over 30 years’ experience as a senior executive with financial services and healthcare institutions, and as an entrepreneur.  Please see www.simonassociates.net for more information or contact Andrea at @andisamc.

-Forbes

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