Soriano: Daughters are underutilized resources in family businesses

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By Prof. Enrique M. Soriano

Inside Family Business

Monday, March 30, 2015

IN my column last week, I talked about women having particular qualities that can be vital to the survival and success of a family business. I also highlighted successful 2nd generation women leaders led by Tessie Sy Coson, Josephine Yap and Vivian Que Azcona making their mark in the world of business.

We have also heard of single mothers rearing their children while they pursue on growing their careers at the same time. In my coaching work, I have advised women founders and visionaries who are strong willed and are very good with owning businesses. It is amazing how they do it!

Dilemmas and threats against women in family-owned enterprises


However, those who work in and for family businesses need to be aware of the dilemmas and conflicts that affect women.

A barrier to women leaders also often occurred if the family business was in an industry thought of as more “masculine oriented,” such as automotive parts, manufacturing or construction.

In traditional setups, the sons automatically inherit the family business. There is nothing to talk about it. So, if you are a woman, and you would want to be the next head of the company, you would probably be seen as overly ambitious! It is as if the male gender is the only one that could naturally demonstrate outstanding performance in the family business.

Choosing the family business’ successor and/or other senior level players can be a tremendous issue, especially when the members of the family are not open with the idea of gender equality. In a family that is composed of male and female siblings, cousins, (also sons and daughters in-law) the decision gets tough.

Do we opt for the male person as the automatic successor and forget about the ladies, because they are better off taking the subordinate posts? Or do we welcome all siblings, and/or cousins as potential successor, and all other members of the family to hold senior level positions regardless of their gender?

The first one is just completely out of reason, and like living inside a bubble. To me, the second one poses more sense, and so I say that looking at tangible results is better than being biased to a specific gender. What you can put on the table, how good you are with people, what trainings you have undertaken, how you see the future of the company, why you are willing to take part or lead the family business are far more reaching in order to make fair judgment with regard to choosing whoever in the family should become the successor or the next deserving member of the family to become known as senior, holding important roles and possessing authority.

Times are changing: daughters as successors

Here is the good news, things are changing now. The eyes of the people are being opened with the idea of daughters as successors to family businesses. Women are getting more of the respect they deserve than what it used to be. I am happy to know about this development. In an article by Alana Schetzer, “Sons are no longer the natural successor to family business” it was stated that, “sons are no longer automatically considered the heirs to business, with daughters increasingly chosen to run the family business or take on an executive role.”

The old rules no longer seem to apply, as women in business are now omnipresent at every level, in every industry.

I am thrilled to have learned that social and cultural changes are determining this new frame of reference. The best interest of the business is seen to be the basis for decisions.

In these changing times, the picture has become very different, and families are becoming more open with the idea of having the daughters take the lead as heads of the family businesses or take on senior roles. Women know in themselves that they have got what it takes to lead, to be different, to be daring and take risks. They know they can take on big challenges. Why not give them the chance, and give them a break from all annoying, and irrational judgments.

In an article by Prof. Alderson, he highlighted a survey that documented the increase of women in positions of leadership and control at family owned firms. In the survey targeting American businesses, approximately 24 percent of family firms are now owned or run by women. This is an increase over the previous survey in which reported fewer than 10 percent.

The survey also reports that of those who have chosen successors, 33 percent intimated that 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.


(I will be in Cebu on April 24, a Friday, and Makati on April 30, a Thursday, to facilitate one of my bestselling one-day workshops entitled “Securing the future of your family business.” The venue in Cebu will be at Choi City in Banilad and in Makati at the AIM Conference Center. For more inquiries, please contact the organizer, Octopus Branding c/o John 0947-5070869 (Makati) and Prof. Danny Wong at +639178900063 (Cebu) for details. Slots are limited.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 31, 2015.


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