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 9: Lessons of the Spotlight

Mary Barrett and Ken Moores

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


The previous chapters closely examine women’s experiences as leaders in family businesses, how they found and then managed the leadership spotlight. We drew on the phases of family business learning we described in our previous book (Moores and Barrett, 2002) and Curimbaba’s (2002) typology of women’s roles in family firms. Because family firms have been characterised as adopting clan-like behaviours, we also drew on the community of practice literature, especially Wenger (1999, 2000) to discern patterns in what learning in family business means. This chapter summarises the experiences of the whole sample, underlining how the distinctive aspects of family business influenced interviewees’ approach to leadership and entrepreneurship, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering their aspirations. SAME LEARNING PHASES, NEW LEARNING JOURNEYS Chapter 1 outlines how the present study was prompted by our interest in revisiting our earlier findings about the phases of learning family business, findings based on a sample mainly of male family firm leaders. Chapter 2 examines empirical evidence from countries worldwide that suggest that men’s and women’s entrepreneurship activities and profile vary according to factors in the entrepreneurial environment. We speculated that, because of the ways family businesses serve as training grounds for future entrepreneurs, and the ways the special characteristics of family businesses can lead to sustainable competitive advantage, having a family business background could further influence these environmental factors. We know that these factors, though universal, can affect female and male entrepreneurs differently, so we wanted to look closely at how a family business perspective could inform...

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