Experts are of the view that one of the biggest trends in family business is the growing number of women taking over their family businesses. In the past, succession was reserved for the first-born son, then it moved on to any male heir. Now, women account for approximately 11 to 12 percent of all family firm leaders, an increase of close to 40 percent since 1996.
A recent survey by the Family Firm Institute attests that the number of women holding leadership positions in their family businesses has increased five fold since 1997. The survey says prior to this trend, women joined the family business to help in a time of crisis or because other options were less attractive. Daughters were rarely considered to be serious candidates for leadership positions and were socialised to believe they were better suited to take on the role of mother and wife.
Studies show family businesses are the most successful business enterprises all over the world and their contribution to the economies in every country is significant. Although family ties and traditions are very deep rooted in family firm, succession issues and transferring effective control and knowledge from one generation to the next remains a challenge.
Experts however believe that active participation by female family members in the family business has been steadily increasing over the past two decades. They say with relevant education, work experience, among other factors, more women around the world are able to sustain and run family business successfully.
A case in point is Grace Olowofoyeku who has been a director of Ascon Oil Company Limited since its incorporation in 1985, taking on the position of group managing director following the demise of the founding managing director, George Enenmoh. Another is Maiden Ibru, who became the publisher of The Guardian Newspapers at the demise of the founder, Alex Ibru, in 2011.
‘‘The era where it was only reserved for the male gender to take over family businesses are long gone, this is as a result of the equal opportunities that females have these days, in regards to education and exposure,’’ Angela Ihunweze, business plan expert/CEO, Angela Itambo Company, wrote in a note to BusinessDay. ‘‘With this growing trend, founders of family businesses will be encouraged to allow their daughters and wives participate in business, as women more so have high trust value over their male counterparts.’’
Industry analysts say in more recent times, daughters have not just inherited the business, but have been truly involved in running it. According to them, women today are challenging the stereotype and assumption that men are the best and most qualified candidates for taking over the family business.