In the traditional world of the family-owned business, only sons and male relatives were selected as heirs--not the daughters.
Those days are over: Today, female relatives are rising in the ranks of family businesses--and in record numbers, no less.
"It's an increasing trend," confirms Leon Danco, Ph.D., co-founder of The Center for Family Business in Cleveland. "And it started off as virtually zero." That trend includes more than just daughters; other female relatives, including in-laws, are proving they, too, can be leaders.
"I think families [today] are more open to alternative structures," says John Messervey, director of the National Family Business Council in Lake Forest, Illinois. "And what really drives it is all-around economic self-sufficiency for women." Not to mention the changing views of the fathers, who are gradually becoming more comfortable with the idea that their daughter may be just as good--or even better--at running the family business than their son.
Perhaps that's due in part to a distinct, yet important, characteristic Messervey has observed among daughters and sons who know they're potential heirs: The sons tend to be impatient for succession to occur, while the daughters, in contrast, actually enjoy sharing responsibility and working with their father.
But predictably, the transition to a female successor is often fraught with jealousy and resentment, and many women have to work extra hard to prove they can handle the responsibility. Says Danco, "When there's a nontraditional occurrence, those who felt it wasn't supposed to be a consideration are upset."
If the results of a recent survey by Arthur Andersen and Mass Mutual are accurate, more and more women will be proving themselves in the days to come: Some 25 percent of the more than 3,000 family-owned businesses surveyed indicated their next CEO will most likely be a woman. That's a fivefold increase over today's figure, a mere 5 percent.