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Winning women: how females succeed in family business

A woman's place in family business is not easily defined. More than any other organisation types, women can find themselves at the top quite quickly in family business. But it is also where the role of the wife, mother and daughter can often play second fiddle to the father, son or even son-in-law.

Yet the lives and fortunes of women in family business are indelibly tied to the business itself and it is the women, more often than not, that bind the family together.

The Family Business Consulting Group's latest book offering comes from a team of expert academics and consultants who put into sharp focus the lives of the oft too labelled "lesser sex". A Woman's Place – The Crucial Roles of Women in Family Business uncovers, in just 125 pages, the length and breadth of the contributions women can make– and have made – to commercial dynasties.

As mother, daughter, wife, owner, CEO, board member, vice president or family committee chairman, Ann M Dugan, Sharon P Krone et al provide key insights to this crucial topic through historical examination, case studies and their own unique insight as members of family businesses.

The book also attempts to prepare female family members for whatever role they choose to take on within the business, providing a range of resources, strategies and advice on preparing themselves and their company to make valuable contributions and deal with impediments that may arise.

It lays out useful guidelines for entering the business world, for excelling in business, or simply being a more financially-aware, investment-savvy family member. Dugan and Krone also delve into the structures and ethos of family firms, providing thoughtful counsel on how organisations as a whole can change their way of thinking to nurture success in their wives, mothers and daughters.

The strategies that Dugan and Krone offer for any number of possible scenarios the family businesswoman may find herself in, whilst often common sense, are nonetheless all believable and practical. But the true value of the book comes from the insights into Woman as Family Business Participant, shedding new light on the scope of roles and activities available while presenting an inspirational range of role models and champions from past and present.

Any woman who has even the faintest connection to a family business will find something in this book for them.

Extract: What families can do (chapter 3, page 35)

There is so much that a family can do to help young women prepare for significant roles in family firms. Here are the opportunities that we see.

Start early. While they are still children, help daughters and nieces develop pride in and love the family business. Help them understand what the business does and how it contributes to the family and the community. Let knowledge of and exposure to the business help the family attract and retain qualified members of the next generation.

Don't leave the girls out. Ever. Even if you think the business is too "masculine". Things could change. A farming business might turn into a real estate development enterprise in 25 years' time and a daughter might fit right in.

Prepare girls just as you do boys. Don't take for granted that girls will or won't want to be in the business. Arm everyone, girls and boys, with the same set of skills and expose them to the same learning experiences.

Avoid creating an environment where all the role models are male. This means including women in leadership roles in the business as well as in the family. It also means including some women among your family business advisors. Girls need to see that women can succeed in a variety of leadership roles, not just in the outside world but within their environment.

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