Leadership and Love: Understanding the role of women in Family Business

The exact nature of the role women play in family business is often ambiguous. While many women are strong and influential contributors to a family business, their skills and knowledge are often not fully realised. We absolutely believe this is to the detriment of the business. By their very nature, women tend to have strong transformational leadership qualities that contribute to success. For the women who often fly under the radar, and the men who work alongside them, it is time to step up to acknowledge the important skills women bring to a family business.

Men and women of family business. This is a call to action.

Family business is the backbone of the Australian and New Zealand economies, conservatively employing and supporting over 50 per cent of the population in both countries. However, women are underrepresented in leadership roles in family business, just as they are throughout most industries.

Yet, we know—given the nature of a family business structure—women play significant roles within these organisations. Women just don’t often have the title to go with their workload.

A 2019 survey of family enterprise revealed that globally, just 18 per cent of family business leaders are women. Women in Europe and Asia hold the majority of these leadership roles. While the stats are low on women who hold recognised and titled positions, this doesn’t mean women in family businesses are not influencing the business and its members.


The unacknowledged role of women in family business


Family business differs from other business models as women often lead and influence in non-traditional ways. In family business, this occurs because:

  • Women are typically the nurturers and carers of the family
  • Women guide and influence the next generation to ‘build and maintain family culture and traditions in the family and the business’
  • Women provide for and protect the family and the business
  • Women lead at home and work, whether in a titled business role or through subtle, untitled influence

Family businesses have a unique opportunity to acknowledge and tap into the extraordinary leadership skills and influence women exert in the business. And we think there needs to be more of this. To celebrate the women who already hold positions of strength and leadership in family business and emulate across all industries.

Driving success from a female perspective


At Family Business Central, we work with family businesses of all sizes, and we see the leadership skills demonstrated by women on a daily basis. Women are interactional leaders in that they tend to shift their self-interests to that of the broader goal. We find that women in leadership tend to transform for longevity rather than transact for tomorrow.

Women in family business often check their egos at the door and practice leadership through quiet and persistent strength, support, encouragement, and decision-making. They are often successful at influencing their loved ones and others within the business. Women are communicative and collaborative.

Family business is a potent mix of love and money. Women in the family understand this intrinsically.

Our Call to Action: Listen to the women in your family business now!


These last two years of the global pandemic have stretched and stressed family businesses like never before. Some businesses have thrived and grown, while others have been challenged like never before, relying on resilience, skill, low debt levels and courage to survive. Family businesses have had to address more than business health for survival, they have had to manage the pressure of supporting broader family and boosting morale.

Some of the unique challenges faced by family businesses because of the pandemic include:

  • The pressure of ensuring the family remains afloat financially
  • Keeping jobs for staff and loved ones
  • Necessary and rapid digital transformation
  • Shifting, pivoting and innovating
  • Managing emotions and fears about an unknown future
  • Maintaining a sense of normal family life
  • Incorporating more tasks into the day – homeschooling, complying with Covid rules and regulations, looking after isolated loved ones
  • Maintaining wellbeing, especially mental health and stress management.

By their very nature, women tend to take on the responsibility for many of these issues, both at the business level and the family level. It is clear that family business women excel within both of these areas.

With women able to offer such a range of value and skills that cover both the business and family aspects of the business, why would we not look to women now? Particularly when there is accelerated change within the business, social, and environmental landscapes.

In a crisis, women can activate a long list of skills and attributes to lead the family and the business. It is vital to recognise and contemplate these as we look for leaders and influencers to guide us towards a new normal and a more certain future.

We know women in business are more likely to:

  • Have extraordinary people skills
  • Focus on teamwork
  • Be motivated by challenges
  • Be strong communicators
  • Handle crisis situations well
  • Wear many hats – to pivot, adjust and focus on solutions with ease
  • Check their egos
  • Have high emotional intelligence
  • Remain flexible
  • Manage priorities for business and family
  • Make jobs look effortless

Family businesses must work to maximise the strengths that already exist within the business if they want to thrive today. Recognising, replicating and elevating these skills within the family business is key.

Our call to action today is to acknowledge the women within your family business. Consider the skills and value you may already have within your business and how to utilise this. Women skilfully juggle family and business daily at the same time as enabling, protecting and providing. This is the essence of leadership.

Today, women in family business are striving to achieve not only their dreams and goals but also the dreams of their family. They do this with leadership, compassion, courage, and conviction.

As women, we need to step up and assert our strengths and skills actively.

As men, you need to encourage, listen and . at times, get out of their way!

Throughout 2022, Family Business Central will share more practical information and methods for elevating women in family business. Are you a woman in business and interested in learning how about leadership and influence? Get in touch today.

Author: Vivian Crick

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