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Understanding Gender in Family Wealth

By Family GovernanceNovember, 2020March 18th, 20243 min read
Gender in Family Wealth

There are several good reasons why family enterprises should care about making active efforts toward gender equity. If they want family members to be involved, their talent pool is limited, so why waste 50% of their potential? A more diverse leadership team will reap the same benefits that have been noted in the non-family business world. Finally, family cooperation, collaboration and harmony are important to families, so excluding women from paths to leadership can lead to resentment and conflict.

In general, the family business world appears to be somewhat behind the corporate sector in explicitly considering issues of gender equity. There is variability across the world, and it is apparent that cultural norms play a strong role.

Some examples: only 7% of senior management positions in the 100 biggest firms held by German families are women, and the top people managing those firms are mostly male, German and advanced in age. In India, women-led family businesses have increased by 58% since 2007. In the US, married women 45 and younger are twice as likely as older married women to make the financial decisions in their families, which is partly due to women marrying at later ages than their parents’ generation (note that these studies are not directly comparable as they don’t all focus on family enterprises).

Another portion of the US study measured unconscious bias in the financial advising industry and found that while most advisors have “good intentions,” they are still more likely to make (incorrect) assumptions about the investment knowledge and risk appetite of women. Researchers used live eye tracking technology to measure how long a financial advisor spent making eye contact with each partner in a heterosexual couple and found that advisors, regardless of their gender, spent 60 percent of the meeting focusing on the male partner.

Consider This: Do the women in your family have roles in the family enterprise? Do they want to? Have they been asked? Are education opportunities within the family applied equally to males and females?

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