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48% of family businesses boast women's presence on the board: Study

A new report by Coutts & Co, entitled ‘Dedication – Portraits of Women in Family Business’, reveals the top factors that women should take into consideration when working for a family business.

According to research by Coutts, family businesses are 48% more likely to boast a female presence on the board of directors compared to non-family businesses. The report highlights the opportunities that family businesses provide for women and the impact that women are making. There's a scarcity of women in leadership roles across most business sectors, with women comprising just 11.7% of board directors and only 10.7% of new appointees in the last year being women. The Walker review of corporate governance and financial institutions concludes that more diverse boards are vital for the long-term success of organisations.

Family firms are the backbone of the economy: two thirds of all companies, public and private, describe themselves as family owned including Sainsbury's, WalMart, Ikea, Fiat, Samsung and Barbour.

These businesses are increasingly acknowledging the skills that female family members bring, and are encouraging their engagement in business life, while developing ways of empowering the next generation of daughters to emerge as entrepreneurs and leaders. Women are making a tremendous impact on the board, as well as making huge contributions as owners and it is no longer about gender and more about having the right person, with the right skill set, in the right role.

Juliette Johnson, Coutts head of Family Business, says: “The role of women is changing within both business and the family. Family businesses are creating diversity and a broader set of leadership skills by including women in the top management teams. Women are making a tremendous impact on the board, as well as making huge contributions as entrepreneurs and owners. Our new publication provides practical advice and real life examples of inspiring individuals, each with their own unique role to play, in and around the family business, for women to take back and share with their own businesses.”

A summary of the top ten key learning points, compiled by some of the UK’s leading females working for their own family businesses, for women considering a similar role are:

  • Don’t try to change too much too quickly when you first join – even if you see some obvious recommendations that need to be made.
  • Gaining experience outside the family business can help ensure you are taken seriously and will give you something to bring back to the business.
  • Discuss and align your vision with family members to ensure you’re driving the business together in the same direction.
  • Ensure family values are reflected in the way the business is run.
  • Network with other family business owners to understand their governance and how they do things.
  • Be conscious of others around you who may be confused by the closeness between family members and how you make decisions and manage your differences naturally.
  • Agree how decisions will be made and how differences of opinion will be managed with other family members.
  • Set boundaries between work and home and agree clear roles and responsibilities in both
  • Utilise non-family management and external advisors to help mentor and bridge the gap between different generations.
  • Think outside the box and embrace change. When the time comes, allow the next generation to make their own mark on the business.

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