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Women Leading Family Businesses

Family businesses are a crucial part of the global economy, accounting for over 80% of the world’s businesses and employing millions of people. In recent years, there has been growth in the number of women taking over and running family businesses. Women bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the table and are excelling in what was traditionally a male-dominated leadership structure.

Women Bring a Unique Skill-set to Leadership

Generally speaking, women lead differently than their male counterparts.  Women are often seen as being more collaborative, nurturing and community-oriented in their leadership styles. These traits have proven to be valuable assets in the running of family businesses.

In general, women also have a different approach to problem-solving and decision-making, which allows them to look at challenges from multiple angles and come up with creative solutions. Additionally, female leaders also tend to have better interpersonal skills, which are critical in building strong relationships with employees, customers and stakeholders.

Women in Leadership – the Statistics

In 2019, of the Fortune 500 list of top U.S. companies, 33 firms had women CEOs; the highest number on record and a big increase from the two women on the list in 1999.

In 1972, approximately 4.6% of businesses in the United States were owned by women. As of, 2019, women now own 42% of companies. These statistics, pulled from Forbes, shows the significant growth in women-led businesses.

women in a business meeting in a modern officeLooking more specifically to the family-owned segment, family business center conducted research on the number of women in leadership of family businesses.  Their research produced data on current leaders as well as plans for future leadership.

The number of women in leadership positions in family businesses is on the rise. This trend is expected to continue as more women are recognized for their leadership skills.

Female Successors in Family Business

The next generation of family businesses will be shaped by many factors, including the increasing involvement of women in leadership roles. As more women take on leadership positions in family businesses, they are likely to bring new ideas, perspectives and approaches to the table. Here are some ways in which the next generation of family businesses may be impacted by women filing key decision-making roles:

  1. Emphasis on diversity and inclusion: Women often prioritize diversity and inclusion, both in terms of the workforce and the products and services offered by the business. This may include a focus on hiring and promoting women and other underrepresented groups, as well as developing products and services that appeal to a diverse customer base.
  2. Innovation and digital transformation: Female leaders are likely to embrace new technologies and digital tools and may be more willing to experiment with new business models and strategies. This could lead to greater innovation and competitiveness, as well as increased agility in responding to changing market conditions.
  3. Focus on sustainability and social responsibility: Women tend to prioritize sustainability and social responsibility, and may be more willing to invest in environmentally-friendly practices and community-based initiatives. This could help to enhance the company’s reputation and appeal to socially-conscious consumers.
  4. Redefining the traditional family business model: A female successor may be seen as a departure from the traditional family business model, which often involved passing the business down from one male family member to another. This change to traditional operations could also lead to merit-based promotions which could open up leadership roles to a wider range of family members and non-family executives.

Success of Women Running Family Businesses

There are many examples of women who have successfully taken over and run family businesses. A prime example is Abigail Johnson, the CEO of Fidelity Investments which was founded by her grandfather and currently manages over $4 trillion in assets. Other notable women-led family businesses include General Motors, led by Mary Barra, and Lockheed Martin, who was led by Marillyn Hewson from 2013 to 2020.

Women in Family Businesses

The growing number of family businesses run by women is a positive trend for both women and the business world as a whole. Women bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the table, which can lead to improved financial performance and a better working environment for employees. As the number of women in leadership positions, in family businesses continues to rise, it is likely that we will see even more successful women-led family businesses in the future.

Overall, the rise of women in family businesses is a very positive development that is good for the business world, the economy and society as a whole. Women have proven that they have what it takes to succeed in the business world and are making an important contribution to the success of family businesses. With continued support and investment, women will continue to play an increasingly important role in the family business sector and beyond.