In the past, family business has been dominated by men. The right of primogeniture referred to the “right” of the first born male to the family inheritance. It was seen as a birthright, and can still be common in certain Latin American and Asian cultures.
Recently, that has begun to change. Surveys have documented the increase of women in positions of leadership and control at family owned firms. According to the 2007 Americans in Family Business Survey, approximately 24 percent of family firms are now owned or run by women. This is an increase over the previous survey in 2003 which reported fewer than 10 percent.
The survey also reports that of those who have chosen successors, 33 percent report the next CEO will be a woman. The trend of women leading their own family business is one of the most important issues in family business management today.
With 70 percent of all first generation family firms failing to have a successful inter-generational transfer to the second generation, the recent “discovery” of an entirely different gender is ushering in a massive change to family business management. The possibilities for a successful succession are now significantly increased with a larger and very well qualified candidate pool.
Studies have shown that the matriarch of the family business often provides the emotional glue that holds the family together. She often brokers disagreements between family members and makes sure the business does not get in the way of family relationships. This is vital to the successful functioning of a family business.
This role has been referred to as the CEO, or chief emotional officer. Women owned family firms have also been shown to be more philanthropic, especially to causes in the local community than family firms owned by men.
One of the most well known women-owned family businesses in the USA is the Zildjian Cymbal Co. of Norwell Mass. It’s also the oldest family business in America, having moved from Istanbul, Turkey in the 1700’s. The company is now run by two women, Craigie and Debbie Zildjian. Cady Zildjian Bickford joined in 2007, representing the 15th generation of continued family ownership.
Reproduced with permission from Keanon Alderson and The Press-Enterprise (www.pe.com) Keanon Alderson Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Robert K Jabs School of Business, at California Baptist University in Riverside CA. His book “Understanding the Family Business” was published in 2011. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org