Chapter 15: Women and the glass ceiling: the role of professionalization in family SMEs
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The chapter focuses on two topics, rarely jointly analyzed by literature: the multifaceted role of women in family firms and its quite complex relationship with the enterprise’s professionalization. First, it examines if in family SMEs the ‘glass ceiling’ exists and bars women from advancing to governance and managerial roles. We assume that the presence of a ‘glass ceiling’ in a firm implies that women are not in a position to exercise an active role in it and they do not have the opportunity to enhance their role. Previous research on women focused on their managerial positions in large companies (Grant, 1988; Ohlott et al., 1994; Bombelli, 2000; O’Connor, 2001). The literature on family firms mainly considered women in ownership and in governance (Goffee and Scase, 1985; Moore and Buttner, 1997; Gnan and Montemerlo, 2001; Montemerlo and Gnan, 2001; Songini and Dubini, 2003). Only a few contributions explored women as top and executive managers in family firms, considering mostly how women can reach managerial roles as a consequence of the succession process (Frishkoff and Brown, 1997; Cole, 1997; Dumas, 1998; Cadieux et al., 2002; Allen and Langowitz, 2003).

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