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Gender bias is real for women in family-owned businesses

Daughters were rarely encouraged nor received support to pursue entrepreneurship education while sons mostly did.

Photo by Amina Filkins from Pexels.com

A study examining gender bias and family-owned businesses found daughters were rarely encouraged nor received support to pursue entrepreneurship education while sons mostly did.

Professors James Combs, Peter Jaskiewicz, and Sabine Raul from the Telfer School of Management uncovered new insights about how gender bias – the preference of a gender over the other – affects the succession strategy in multi-generational family firms. Their findings are published in the Journal of Small Business Management.

When nurturing the next generation, entrepreneurial families often prepare their daughters and sons differently for their careers. The researchers noticed a common pattern in the stories shared by the next generation: Sons are often nurtured to become entrepreneurial, whether they are expected to take over the firm one day or to start a venture elsewhere. Daughters, however, receive little to no incentive to develop the leadership skills and entrepreneurial passion required to contribute to the family firm or start their own business.

In conversations with 26 children who were raised in 13 multi-generational family firms – some being centuries old – but not expected to work in the firm, the researchers found that:

  • Seven of the nine sons (78%), pursued entrepreneurial careers;
  • Only one among the 15 daughters (7%) gained an entrepreneurial education and engaged in entrepreneurship (7%);
  • Women were not encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship education, gain business experience, start a new venture;
  • Men rather than women received financial resources from the family to start their own business

“Even when these female non-successors have opportunities to acquire relevant knowledge and work to start a business, becoming entrepreneurial was still a challenging uphill battle,” says Jaskiewicz, who believes the data reveals women do not pursue entrepreneurship outside of the family because they lacked sufficient emotional and financial support from the family.

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