As I began to think about reentering the workforce I reached out to CAFE, Canadian Association of Family Enterprise, to talk to them about my intergenerational work and helping families bridge the gap between different generations in their growth.

I attended one of their lunches in which the Longos family shared their successes and challenges. This family has been extremely successful in the food industry owning a chain of successful grocery stores. They stayed true to their core values and behaviours over the last 50+ years, was consistent in their treatment of family (anyone from the younger generation that wants to join the company must work elsewhere for 2 years before entering) and there doesn’t appear to be gender bias. As they shared their story it seemed like the best person was chosen for the job regardless of gender. In fact, Longos is at the place of expansion where they realized that they will need to draw from third-party expertise in areas the other family members lacked. This takes confidence, foresight and a larger picture.

A lot of family businesses still run old school where the men are chosen over the female family members even if they are more experienced and better suited for a role. This is shifting slowly. It will really depend on the leadership in place.

In a recent National Post article, titled, The ‘and daughter’ evolution of the family business, author Beth Pinsker, highlights another family business that is at the forefront of this change: The Trump family who is supportive of women taking over top leadership roles, even in traditionally male-dominated businesses.

Pinsker states, Ivanka Trump, 33, is part of a fourth generation working their way up the company’s leadership ranks, waiting for the day when their fathers hand over the reins. So far, she has made it to become an executive vice-president of development and acquisitions. Ivanka says, “I don’t think too much about the role of being female in terms of my own company. I just look at it as growing and learning.” She said her father never treated her differently from her two brothers at the company. Donald Jr. and Eric.

Walter Kuemmerle, president of Boston-based Kuemmerle Research Group, declares, “20 years ago, there was basically zero preference for women in family businesses. I see more women interested and more older generations receptive to the idea of the best person taking over, rather than having a gender bias.”

Kuemmerle cautioned that the evolution was not yet complete. His best advice for women joining the family business is to get a great education and do more homework than their competitors. He says, “As unfair as this sounds, you should be better prepared than you’d think a male would be.”

As in the Longos case perhaps it is gaining your experience and knowledge outside the family business first … gaining your stripes so to speak and then entering into the family business.

There will be a day when gender bias plays no part.


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