Theoretical Perspectives on Family Businesses

Theoretical Perspectives on Family Businesses

Edited by Mattias Nordqvist, Leif Melin, Mattias Waldkirch and Gershon Kumeto

Family business has become an increasingly studied field over the last decade and forms one of the fastest growing research areas today. The uniqueness of family businesses is the interaction between two systems; the family and the business systems, leading to specific characteristics that we rarely see in other types of businesses. In order to understand the interaction between the family and the business systems, researchers have adopted a diverse range of theories from different fields. The contributors provide a thorough discussion of thirteen theoretical perspectives that have been used in family business research to a varying degree. Each chapter introduces a theory, demonstrates its previous application in family business research and offers compelling ideas for future research that could contribute to both the family business field and the original theory behind it. This book aims to spark new insights for researchers and PhD students in the field of family business, and is also a good introduction for researchers who are new to the field.

Chapter 11: Gender theory and the family business

Karin Staffansson Pauli

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, family business, organisational behaviour, organisation studies


Gender theory started with understanding and explaining women’s role in society and now also includes men and masculinities. It has recently been adapted to family business research. This chapter will briefly introduce gender theory and its development, before reviewing how it has been used in family business research. Arguing that the family business context is suitable in studying gender phenomena, the chapter outlines several ways through which gender theory could yield new insights into the issues of how family business structures, settings and practices produce relations of power or asymmetry. A common approach so far to the study of gender in family business situations is to consider ‘gender as a variable’, which maintains the categorisation of women and men as a relevant and unproblematic variable. Many analyses of family businesses that also address gender, focus on feminist ‘standpoint positions’, giving voice to women’s unique experiences. Often in family business research, the dominant approach is to think of gender in terms of limited male/female distinctions rather than by reframing family business through critical positions, with the aim of reflection and sensitivity towards gender issues in terms of the socially constituted patterns that are produced through male/female, masculine/feminine distinctions. In the conclusion, the chapter suggests a possible methodology for capturing gendered processes and proposes how family business research could offer new insights into gender theory. Keywords: gender theory, family business

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