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Family businesses ‘more likely to have women on boards’

Women are breaking through the glass ceiling in family businesses, moving on from their role as “chief emotional officer” and becoming active, visible participants in the running of companies, according to Juliette Johnson, head of family business at Coutts & Co.

Women are breaking through the glass ceiling in family businesses, moving on from their role as “chief emotional officer” and becoming active, visible participants in the running of companies, according to Juliette Johnson, head of family business at Coutts & Co.

She was commenting as new Coutts research, looking at the relationship between family businesses and female board members, was released.

Currently, Coutts, the UK private banking arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, suggests women comprise just 11.7% of board directors in British companies. This lack of female representation at board level has become a major issue in many countries - in the UK, Lord Davies recently carried out a review of the situation and recommended women should make up 25% of board members in FTSE 100 companies by 2015.

However, family businesses are 48% more likely to have a woman on the board of directors compared to non-family companies, according to Coutts.

“Family businesses, more so than their non-family counterparts, are built around strong family values which are underpinned by the family, and as such may be more accepting of the different roles that women have,” said Johnson.

Businesses are making appointments based on skill and ability, rather than gender, which is providing greater opportunities for women. Many businesses also increasingly appreciate a female viewpoint, she added.

“Women have a vital perspective to bring to all areas of the business, such as developing the next generation, a role that is important for succession planning and passing the business on,” said Johnson.

The study, entitled Dedication – Portraits of Women in Family Business, makes a number of recommendations for women joining a family company board, such as getting outside experience and avoiding trying to change too much too quickly.

“Part of the settling in process in a new role is to understand the dynamics of the individuals involved and learn the best way to effect change, rather than embarking on changes immediately,” said Johnson.

Women need earn the respect of their colleagues, peers and employees, ensuring they are appreciated for their ability, “and not to be seen as having a role simply because of their name”, she said.

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