It’s imperative that we provide support for women in family businesses

Why it’s imperative to provide support to women running family businesses

family business
It is remarkable when you consider we live in an age where there is seemingly a need to quantify and measure everything with metrics and data, that we can not confidently say how many women are running or involved in a family business right now in Australia.

What we do know is that there are a large number of women who are running or working within a family business, who are making a significant contribution to the business and also working hard to keep the family together.

Some women are helping to run the family business from the dining room table each night squeezing it in between their “day job” and caring duties, while others are commanding the attention of a boardroom as the Chair.

Much of this we know not because of data, but anecdotally from the women we speak with and the women they speak with.

To illustrate the total dearth of information on women in family business, look no further than the KPMG Enterprise Family Business Australia 2017-18 survey.

The survey measures a number of key indicators for family businesses, which are listed on the databases of KPMG and Family Business Australia.

Of those responding to the survey, 57 per cent were from multi-generational family businesses and 95 per cent were family members. However, a staggering 80 per cent of those responding were men (which was down from the 85 per cent in 2015), with a median age of between 55 and 64.

Importantly, central to the survey is an endeavour to accurately gauge the level of “socioemotional wealth” (SEW) to the family; that is, the emotional value of a business to a family outside of its financial value.

“SEW is vital to the future sustainability of family businesses,” the survey reads. “In fact, without it, our research found there is a greater likelihood a family business will be passed on and/or sold to non-family members – or will be forced to close.”

We would absolutely agree with the premise that if the family business, which family are investing their time, money and efforts into is not of value to the family outside of what it means in terms of profit and loss, the business is highly unlikely to thrive.

Family Business Australia reports that 70 per cent of all Australia businesses are family owned, or more than 1.4 million businesses in total, and consumers continue to have a strong preference for supporting family-owned businesses.

Disappointingly, 70 per cent of family owned businesses which are passed on to the next generation fail to succeed with 95 per cent of those doing so because of communication problems and the remaining 5 per cent because of the structure of the business.

Until women in family business are provided with a voice to share their perspective, concerns and ambitions, there can be no real understanding of what is happening in family businesses.

And why do they have no voice? There are a multitude of reasons.

Sometimes it is because the “work” they do is seen as a contribution more than work and is unpaid and under-valued.

Other times it is because family businesses can be less than forthcoming when it comes to providing fair entitlements and support to women in the family to facilitate their career aspirations.

For other women still, they may be operating in a family corporate bubble with limited to no connection with women facing the same challenges.

As someone who has been working in this space for 11 years as an advisor and a member of a third-generation family business, I have seen it time-and-time again and it’s something which needs to be seriously addressed for the future of the family business component of Australia’s business community.

One step forward is providing a platform for women to support and hear from others who are also working in family businesses.

Networking events within the corporate world are incredibly popular and supported, however the same is still to be actively developed within this sector.

Susanne, in conjunction with Family Business Australia, is hosting Australia’s first dedicated Women in Family Business Conference in Brisbane on October 31, along with an impressive list of guest speakers across the family business sector.

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