Women in Family Business Leadership Roles

Women in Family Business Leadership Roles

Daughters on the Stage

Mary Barrett and Ken Moores

Mary Barrett and Ken Moores breathe new life into research on one of the largest and yet frequently overlooked business sectors. They analyse thirteen international cases of women in family business to discover how women attained leadership or, sometimes, failed to do so. By examining in detail how women have reached the top in the traditionally conservative environment of family business, the book avoids essentialist assumptions about women as leaders. It illuminates classic issues of entrepreneurship in a family business context, particularly the dual imperatives of innovation and business continuity. Women in Family Business Leadership Roles presents contemporary research that looks at the patterns of success and failure, and understand whether this is the result of gender or other factors.

Chapter 8: Becoming Invisible

Mary Barrett and Ken Moores

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, entrepreneurship, family business


This chapter considers three women who, for one reason or another, lost the leadership spotlight in the family business or, worse, turn out never to have had it in the first place. They were pushed towards invisibility, despite their efforts to achieve some prominence in the family firm, despite the respect people outside the firm had for their expertise, and often despite having helped it make important innovations. To start with, each had looked much like many other family business women who became leaders: they often brought similar skills to the firm. Just as important, all three brought a high level of affective commitment (Sharma and Irving, 2005) to the firm: a real enthusiasm for it because of how it linked their identity and career ambitions. This chapter tries to fathom why, in the face of these qualifications, leadership eluded them. HANNAH Hannah is the daughter of a successful supermarket entrepreneur whose business interests were based in Lebanon. Like Nancy, her role in the family firm was strongly influenced by decisions her family made earlier: they wished to avoid claims on family assets they thought her future husband might make. She has two brothers, but their future wives cannot make such claims under the inheritance customs of the Middle East. As Hannah explained it: Hannah: The inheritance issue was like this: if you (as a woman) are a Muslim you can inherit half of what the boy will inherit. As for the gender rules, they always think that women are...

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