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Breaking Through The Patriarchy: Women Calling The Shots In Family Business

Family businesses are considered as a foundation of the global economy, representing an estimated 70% to 90% of the global GDP and 50% to 80% of jobs in the majority of countries worldwide.

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Gone are the days when a woman’s contribution to her family was only confined to the kitchen. Right to higher education, awareness, being disgruntled about their corporate jobs, shrinking size of the family and sometimes their own families’ circumstances have forced them to take up the family business. As the times are changing, the participation of women in the ownership, management and direction of family business has been growing from the last decade. Even their roles have also been shifted from softer roles in Corporate Social Responsibility, Philanthropy, Human Resources to decision making and operations across all industries. These new roles have put the myth that women are not skilled at networking and socializing in a business environment to rest.

If we see various data, family businesses are considered as a foundation of the global economy, representing an estimated 70% to 90% of the global GDP and 50% to 80% of jobs in the majority of countries worldwide. After excelling in the roles of a mother, doctor, teacher, lawyer or any professional, they have proved their mettle in the family business too and that’s the reason women- led family businesses have increased by 58% since 2007. Women are becoming the able custodians of their family businesses on their own and claiming what is rightfully theirs. This rising trend takes many of us by surprise because the Indian families have traditionally been the patriarchal space ruled by “efficient” male members and only catered and caressed by the “soft” and “ignorant” women in the families.

The Early Days

Acclaimed Business Historian Ms Gita Piramal had participated in the 7th Asian Invitational Conference on Family Business organised by the Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise at the Indian School of Business and revealed that an Indian woman’s participation in the family business can be traced in 1960s when the government introduced the family planning program. As the initiative stressed on the need of small family, resulting less sons or sometimes no son, paved the way for the daughters. Families with only daughters or those with one son and one daughter started focusing on nurturing and training their daughters for family business. They were given international exposures by sending them off to elite business schools for learning the nuances of business. This is how the daughters in business families became scions of their organizations breaking the shackles of gender disparity.

Making a difference

When a woman joins a family business, it’s equally challenging as their male counterparts. But their inbuilt role of a nurturer, caregiver and emotional support system make them analyse a situation in a broader way and within no time, the business gets a new high. In the journey of achieving the success, a woman has to wear the multiple hats of sales, brand management, customer marketing personnel besides understanding the dynamics of the business. 

Why women are reaching new highs confidently?

Whenever a woman has taken the command of a family business or took up the enterprenual role, she always made a positive impact not only in business but also in society and families. The major change that has propelled women to touch new heights confidentially is they are well aware of their strengths as well as weakness. Another key factor is that they are no longer victims to the struggle between a personal and professional life. They have very well learnt to strike a balance between the two. Education and financial independence are the biggest factor behind this change. All these have made them feel more empowered in the male-dominated workplace or society. They come with experience and knowledge and have been seen as great leaders. Secondly, today competition is tough. Businesses need leaders who are passionate and understand the business. It does not matter whether it is a woman or a man. It really boils down to which sibling has the drive to run the business.

Why women leading such businesses are faring better than non-family business?

We have so many women to look upto when it comes to managing a business and family businesses. If we see the global scenario, family businesses have a better share of women in leadership roles either as promoters or non-promoters. What sets them apart in a family business or from non- family firms is their long-term strategy and vision to preserve and sustain the business for future generations. With this focus, the average tenure of family leadership is usually around 20 years as compared to six years for non-family firms. The long tenure provides an opportunity for the women leaders in the family business to adapt and influence their management styles and showcase their contribution and accomplishments over time.

Way Forward

Kudos to the professional education, financial independency and availability of new digital technologies, there is no glass ceiling for who should wear the boss’s cap. Always believe in your true calling. It will give you reason to get up in the morning and drive you to make the difference you want to make. Always keen to learn and no matter if you are learning something from the junior-most in your company. Stay connected to your roots is utmost as it will keep you humble, help you grow and be compassionate about others. The key to success lies within one’s self. Find your calling and do that with absolute commitment. Feel proud of the product or service you aim to sell, and let that pride shine through in all your work. Don’t let the criticism bother you. Spread your wings and fly.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Suchita Oswal Jain

Vice Chairman & Joint Managing Director of Vardhman Textiles Ltd

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