The powerful, inspiring women leading family businesses

When I first joined the family business, I found it very difficult to break through the sexism and invisibility of being a woman in a male-dominated industry.   Even though I was developing and improving the business, I was seldom acknowledged in the early days and treated like a little sister.  Not just from my family members but also others who were working in the business.

It took many years to get recognition, and I had to work a lot harder, build trust and prove myself at every stage.  All this while creating my family and all that came with that.

How women are seen in the family business

So, I found it interesting when I read a KPMG article in 2020, following a survey of family businesses that talks about women in the family business as having hidden roles and being designated as the ‘chief emotional officer’ in some situations. However, women took more of a support role in keeping the family together instead of leading the family business.

I am happy to say that there are a growing number of women leading their family businesses and not in any way invisible.

I had the privilege to have a close look at some of these inspirational women leaders in the family business as part of a project I have been involved in this year.

These women are not in the background, but they have broken through the stereotype of the traditional male-dominated head of the family business.  They have founded the company, or they have taken over in the succession of their family business.

They have successfully broken down the barriers and are redefining leadership in the family business.

Challenges for women in the family business

Most of them cite their primary challenge as the male family members putting barriers and not trusting that they can do the role in male-dominated environments.

The consistent trend I read in their submissions is that they have transformed their family business into achieving high financial performance and innovation. In addition, they implemented a transformational leadership style to create an inclusive and diverse workplace.

They have in common that they succeeded despite the barriers while having families and building inclusive teams with a sense of belonging.

These women showed immense resilience and grit to succeed. Yet, they had to fight for their place.

Embracing and supporting women in the family business

In the future, we need to be aware and cautious that all women are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts and not miss out on women’s contributions because they do not think the fight is worth it.

I know in my own experience, I sometimes questioned if it was worth it.

The risk of not embracing women in family businesses may mean the end for the company.

Celebrating women leaders in the family business

So, I want to give tribute to all the female leaders in family businesses and encourage all organisations to embrace all they have to provide and support them to succeed and remove any barriers in their way.

I want to share some of the quotes from the inspirational women I had the privilege to review.

A woman as a business leader

My strength and courage to fight for change, to show those who came before me that there is nothing to fear from this new approach, have driven growth and secured the business for future generations

A woman overcoming challenges in the family business

I’ve fought constant resistance and been required to prove my worth time and time again.  Courage has been essential to my success both as a leader and a woman in the business

Supporting women in your family business

I have ensured that flexible working hours and days are core to the business. It doesn’t just make good moral sense, but it makes good business sense

I have coached and built the women in leadership in my business by providing a leadership pathway and funding the furthering of their learning and experiences

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