• 07-MAR-2016

Family Business Next Gen report 2016: Female perspective

Latest PwC research shows:

  • 1 in 5 female next gens don’t think they have the same chances of succeeding in the family business as men
  • More than half of female next gens disagree that they face more barriers running a family business than they would in another type of company
  • 45% of next gen women agree that next gen males are seen as more likely to run the family business than next gen females
  • Female next gens are more aware than their male counterparts of the threat of digital disruption – 37% vs. 24%
  • 30% of the female next gens have a seat on the board -noticeably higher than the global average for public companies, but significantly lower than the 55% of male next gens in the same positions

LONDON – 8th March 2016 – To mark International Women’s Day PwC has looked at the experiences of female next gens working in family businesses to assess how well female next gen are represented compared to male next gen.

The results of this research featuring responses from 73 female next gens in 25 countries is presented in The Female Perspective, a special cut of the upcoming Next Generation of family business leaders’ survey.

More opportunities for women in family firms… but still short of gender parity

Despite the fact that study​​ after study has shown that companies with female leadership actually outperform those run by men, the gender gap in all forms of businesses continues to make the headlines.

Thirty per cent of the next gen women PwC interviewed have a seat on the board of the family business, which is noticeably higher than the global average for public companies, but still significantly lower than the 55% of male next gens in the same positions. Also, 52% of the next gen women interviewed disagreed that their gender would place more barriers to them running the family business, compared to other types of companies.

So while the family firm is sometimes considered old-fashioned and reluctant to change, survey results suggests that in this respect it could be quite the opposite. The family firm could actually be one of the most supportive and conducive environments for ambitious and talented women to develop their careers.

Says Henrik Steinbrecher, PwC Global Middle Market Leader: “Family owned companies have repeatedly told us that they care about fostering talent with the key skills they need to excel in the market. This is perhaps why women working in family businesses are getting more opportunity. And, while there is still work to be done to reduce the gap in terms of gender bias and access, the family firms who identify and rectify the issue can this into a positive opportunity for them.”

There are exceptions, of course, especially in some cultures and some sectors, and there’s still a long way to go to achieve genuine parity. But it could just be that family firms are ahead of the curve in looking to the female line for the talent, energy, and creativity they need to succeed in a fast-changing world.

Confidence tricks

However, results also show that there is a widespread perception among female survey respondents that their brothers and male cousins are ‘expected’ to take over. Forty-five percent of women agreed that the next generation of men is more likely to run the business, and only 21% of women say that it’s been agreed that they will manage the company one day, compared with 31% of men. But the important word in that sentence is ‘perception’, meaning that female next gens could be undermining everything they could otherwise achieve. Forty-four percent of our female respondents hope/expect to manage the company one day compared to 67% of male respondents.

A digital divide?

But, in terms of addressing long-term business needs, female next generations seem better poised to understand and address key issues. Specifically around digital and technological disruption: 37% of women feel that their business is vulnerable to the threat of digital disruption compared with 24% of men. While 44% say they struggle to get the firm to understand the importance of having a clear digital strategy, compared 34% of the men. There seems to be a degree of frustration, too, in the fact that 36% agree that family firms tend to be slow to take up new technology, with only 27% of men saying that.

Looking down the line

Concludes Henrik Steinbrecher: “Having females in decision making senior roles gives the business a competitive edge. So it’s important for family firms to implement a structure of support that develops clear career paths, and provides both male and female next gens with the right training and mentoring to succeed in managing the family business regardless of gender.”


  1. Methodology: 73 interviews were conducted with female next generation members currently working in the family business and likely to take over the family business in 25 countries, with a focus on those with a sales turnover of more than $5m.

  2. The interviews were conducted between 14 January 2015 and 23rd February 2016 by Kudos. Research, and the results analysed by Jigsaw Research.

  3. The Next Generation Survey 2016​​ will launch on 12 April 2016.

  4. At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 208,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

  5. PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure​​ for further details.

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