Handbook of Research on Family Business, Second Edition
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Handbook of Research on Family Business, Second Edition

Edited by Kosmas X. Smyrnios, Panikkos Z. Poutziouris and Sanjay Goel

During the previous decade, the multi-disciplinary field of family business has advanced significantly in terms of advances in theory, development of sophisticated empirical instruments, systematic measurement of family business activity, use of alternative research methodologies and deployment of robust tools of analysis. This second edition of the Handbook of Research on Family Business presents important research and conceptual developments across a broad range of topics. The contributors – notable researchers in the field – explore the frontiers of knowledge in family business entrepreneurship and stimulate critical thinking, enriching the repository of theoretical frameworks and methodologies.
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Chapter 15: Women and the glass ceiling: the role of professionalization in family SMEs

Luca Gnan and Lucrezia Songini


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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