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The role of women in family businesses

Katarzyna Gierczak-Grupińska
MA in sociology and MBA diploma, hotelier, certified change leader. For 7 years she has worked on developing the family business, GELG. Initiator and o-founder of the first Polish Association of Family Businesses, founder of the fundation of Family Businesses

Solange Olszewska
president of Solaris Bus & Coach S.A. Actively engaged in developing Polish-German cooperation, both in the economic and cultural spheres.

According to research done by the American Family Business magazine and by the international consulting company PWC, irrespective of their geographic location, family businesses play an important role in building the global economy, as they constitute a half of all companies registered in the EU, 65-95 percent of companies in the countries of Latin America and over 95 percent in the U.S. Their contribution to the Gross National Product (GNP) is equally impressive, particularly in Latin America and Asia where in some countries it is as high as 82 percent.

Which companies can be considered family companies? In research performed by PWC, family businesses were defined as those where at least 51 percent of shares belong to the family or people related to each other, where family members constitute the majority in management and the owners engage in daily management activities. This is not a particularly restrictive definition. According to the Polish branch of the World Family Business Network “a family business is a business in which at least two family members have 20% of shares in the business and have a say in company management, or have at least 51% or more shares in the business without holding administrative functions.” Different associations of family businesses adopt different, but usually more restrictive definitions. The lack of common criteria complicates doing research on this particular form of business, which results in there being little data on the subject.

There is even less data on women’s roles in creating and managing family businesses. The subject of women’s importance in family businesses is relatively new as for years men played a much greater role in managing companies. Men still occupy the majority of leading positions in company management, not only in family businesses. In the top ten family business ranking done by Family Business, top positions are occupied by men.

The end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century demonstrate, however, that in business much can depend on women, particularly in the case of family companies. Such was the case with Kong Gumi, a no longer existing Japanese company established in 578, which until 2007 occupied the topmost position in the ranking of the oldest family-run businesses. According to Family Business it was successfully run by the female representative of the thirty seventh generation (out of forty). Thanks to her efforts in 2004 over 80% of the company’s profits still came from the construction of Buddhist temples, which had been the original business of the company since it had been created fourteen centuries ago. Her grandson, however, was not able to prevent the downfall of the 1400-year old company and its takeover by a larger building corporation.

Polish examples, among them Cafardini, Kontrak, Konspol and Solaris, mentioned above, confirm that companies run by women can be successful on the market. Therefore it is worth asking, how are these companies different from family and non-family businesses traditionally run by men? The panel “The Role of Women in Family Businesses” will attempt to answer this question. Its participants will use their own experiences in management to diagnose the sources of the success of the companies they run.



Added: 27 października 2011 Category: General
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