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Family Businesses Favour Women In Leadership Positions

Posted on June 21, 2015 at 11:25 AM

Women are more likely to take on a leadership position within a family business than any of their non-family counterparts, with 70% of family businesses considering and 30% strongly considering a woman for the CEO position, according to research.

For a report entitled Staying Power: how do family businesses create lasting success, EY and Kennesaw State University surveyed 25 of the largest family businesses in each of the 21 top global markets. Those surveyed represent businesses averaging US$3.48 billion in sales and 12,000 employees.

Their findings are striking when it comes to women in leadership positions:


  • They average about five women in the C-suite and four women being groomed for top leadership positions
  • Women compose on average 22% of the top management team
  • 55% have at least one woman on the board
  • Boards average 16% women - which is more than one woman per board
  • 8% of the boards are at least 50% women

Comparing these family businesses with overall global business statistics is revealing. In top management women's participation globally amounts to 12.9% at the end of 2013, and the proportion of women CEOs worldwide was 3.9%, says the report.

As for worldwide board composition, women amounted to 12.9% at the end of 2013. These figures include family businesses, so if you take them out, the numbers would fall.

There is an urgent need for the development and recognition of women in corporate leadership roles, with little progress. As I reported yesterday on Forbes, the UK appears to be making some headway.

But according to this report, many companies could learn a great deal from family businesses.

Carrie Hall, EY Americas Family Business Leader

“Family businesses may offer a path forward for all businesses seeking to achieve gender parity within their leadership ranks. Our analysis of this data suggests that inherent traits of successful family businesses contributing to their long-term success also create an environment that’s more welcoming and conducive to the development of women leaders” says Carrie Hall, EY Americas Family Business Leader. (Twitter: @CarrieGHall)

Not only do these businesses demonstrate a higher percentage of women in leadership positions, they actively groom female family and non-family members with that goal in mind.

The survey data also shows that having more women being groomed for the C-suite correlates with a business having higher growth targets and emphasising a focus on long-term growth and sustainability of the business rather than short-term performance goals, such as meeting quarterly numbers, according to the report.


“Having women in leadership is good for long-term, sustainable growth. And, a focus on long-term sustainable growth is a strategy that is a proven accelerator for women in leadership” says Joe Astrachan, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Kennesaw State University.

Read the report to uncover some of the catalysts for women in leadership.



Categories: Appointments, Leadership, Women