• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Empowered Women Empower Generations

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I was having a conversation with a friend, Rukayyat Kolawole, and she said: “empowered women empower generations: if we want to see an empowered generation, we must start with empowering women.” I wholeheartedly, empathically agree. Extending that to the family business realm, if we want to see Nigerian Family Businesses rising in glory, we must empower women.

In many Family Businesses, women are explicitly excluded from leadership and/or ownership roles, often automatically deferring to the eldest sons; in others, societal conditioning and reinforcement have led women to excuse themselves and dilute their potential leadership.

In this year of reckoning, we must see that excluding half of our talent pool from leadership and ownership is not only unjust, but it is also detrimental to the trajectory of our Family Businesses: Women often play invisible but critical roles – often as the glue that holds the family together. This is critical in Africa where we have more complex families – larger nuclear families, more integrated extended families and “non-family family”: the definition of family can be philosophical, with many we consider “family” that are not blood-line relatives or in-laws. Women often navigate these complex units skilfully, leading with empathy and emotional intelligence to manage the various factions and promote harmony. It is often weaknesses in the family that hinder the multigenerational continuity of family businesses.

Our 21st century Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous (“VUCA”) world has given rise to a need for a new breed of enterprise leader that possesses empathy, humility, influence and resilience. A lot of these qualities come naturally to women. Many studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between female involvement and business performance: For instance, the 2016 “Women Matter Africa” study by McKinsey & Company saw that African firms with highest numbers of female representatives on the company boards had, on average, 20 per cent higher levels of profits compared to the industry standard.

2020 has been an extremely disruptive year. However, there is a silver lining, as moments of disruption provide excellent opportunities for transformation:
may we seize the opportunity to redefine and reinvent our family businesses to not only be more diverse but to also be more inclusive and empowering to all, so that we can empower future generations?

Diane Mariechild “A woman is a full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

May women awaken to the power that they possess, and the potential that they carry to nurture and transform our family businesses to transition across generations. Part of this awakening requires that women become more courageous, negotiating the obstacles that face them.

Looking back at history, devastating events often provided the right context to provoke transformation both a societal level and on an individual level. For example, the 1918 Spanish flu was a propellant for American women socially and financially: it led to an entrance of women into the workforce due to worker shortages caused by the flu and World War 1. This trend resulted in a new social norm and gave rise to increased advocacy for gender rights. Consequently, 2 years later, the 19th Amendment was ratified, where women were granted suffrage.

Similarly, the current pandemic may provide the right context to transform the role of African women in the family business, starting a new social norm. Women may find allies that champion their causes, as they individually and collectively discover their voices to negotiate the obstacles that face them in family businesses.

Marianne Williamson: “When a woman rises up in glory, her energy is magnetic and her sense of possibility is contagious.”

Nike Anani is a Speaker, Author and Mentor for NextGens that seek to be effective change agents in their Family Enterprises. She is a guide and a spark-plug for action: helping NextGens identify and implement new opportunities, shortening the journey from identification to impact. She fuses her 9 years’ experience as a NextGen executive in her Family Enterprise and as a Chartered Accountant, to bring practical solutions to the table.