As featured on BusinessMirror: The power of women in family business
Women in family businesses, especially those who were the first to enter the workforce and have gone through a series of challenges, are strategically placed to manage this dilemma and bring about change in their organizations and society at large by becoming role models and mentors for younger women who will contribute to the future talent pool.
Mentorship and networking
Regardless of gender, mentorship and networking are integral aspects of professional development. In our interviews for this report, the vast majority of women believe that having the right mentor can sometimes be essential to working in a new company or getting a promotion.
As with women in non-family businesses, women in family firms require strong networks that are not dominated by family influence, as well as mentoring and guidance to orient them. successfully toward management and leadership roles. As a family member in a family business, it is not always easy to find effective mentors from within the business. Even though the business would have individuals who have spent considerable time in the business, they would not always be comfortable mentoring family members.
"The mentorship role for females (and males) in a family business is a challenge because sometimes you don’t get 100 percent honest, brutal feedback," said a third-generation leader in a family business. "When I receive feedback, I want to receive it honestly as if I was a non-family employee." Relationships between family and non-family employees are complicated, especially when a non-family employee is a mentor to a family member. In these cases, she mentioned that she has learned to use intuition to read between the lines of mentorship feedback. Open communication is “for the collective value of the business,” she said.
Such a phenomenon is partly based on traditional social norms. While men have traditionally met with each other after work to stay connected and discuss business, it isn’t a natural phenomenon for women to be present in such networking events.
Forming professional groups that involve women (or are exclusively women) will provide an environment to build networks and connect mentors or mentees. To better connect women within a certain profession or with certain interests, these groups can be tied to a particular purpose. Several interviewees cited the need for women in family businesses to form stronger connections.
Age and generation
For young female family leaders, acknowledging and celebrating the efforts of generations of women who have preceded them is important. Women supporting women is more prevalent in the next generations because of this mindset shift and a stronger commitment for women to empower each other. Generational change is impacting the way family members are involved in the company. In many generations that founded companies or in the second generation, leadership and control were passed on to the eldest son within the family. With more companies adopting a merit-based approach to succession, often due to failures experienced with adopting the primogeniture approach, the gender consideration is removed, which many women feel is giving them more chances to prove their worth against their male family members.
"I believe there are differences in leadership styles for women and men, but I also believe everyone has a different style," said a family member and Vice President. "Sometimes women pressure themselves to act like men in business, and they end up becoming a person without emotions. Leaders should embrace their differences because those differences often complement one another."
It can be frustrating for women growing in leadership roles to be stereotyped with characteristics commonly associated with women leaders—just as it can be frustrating for women family members to feel underappreciated as they grow in the family business.
Similarly, many leading family businesses are addressing succession in a meritocratic way. "Pioneer family businesses have added a policy that requires family members to work outside of the company before they have a chance to work for our business."
Family businesses represent an opportunity for women to advance in business more quickly, according to some of our interviewees. Unlike in other businesses, where women may feel shut out of the conversation for leadership positions, women in family businesses can use their family status to help vouch for themselves. However, we can still see that some family businesses limit women’s involvement in the organization to certain roles such as handling CSR or HR. Or, in other instances, if they do have a senior position within the business, becoming a C-suite, a board member, or discussing the succession of the chairman – usually a family member – are still considered taboos. Discussing the CEO succession because many family members are hiring non-family members for the role is an easier topic to discuss.
The excerpt was taken from the KPMG Thought Leadership publication: https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/sa/pdf/2022/the-power-of-women-in-family-business.pdf