Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Family Business Ownership and Management: A Gender Comparison

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Strategy

Family Business Ownership and Management: A Gender Comparison

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

While family firms account for an estimated 80 percent of all American businesses, and about one-third of these family businesses are owned by women, there has been minimal study of gender issues in family business ownership and management. In contrast to early (pre-1980) gender comparisons in management and entrepreneurs hip, this study found general similarities and few significant differences in a variety of management activities and styles between family businesses with at least half the owner-managers being women and those with less than half. These findings add to the limited and currently inconclusive body of knowledge regarding gender issues in family business, entrepreneurship, and management in general.

INTRODUCTION

Although there is a body of literature dealing with gender comparisons of management practices and another in the field of family business, there have been few research studies that have focused on gender issues in family business. This study compares family businesses which have a significant proportion (50% or greater) of women family members involved in the ownership and management of the firm (n = 58) and family businesses which do not (n = 91). This comparison focused upon a variety of management activities and styles which have been previously identified in the research literature as being especially relevant in family business management. Such a comparison adds to the currently limited body of literature dealing with gender issues in family business, which in turn can lead to the development of theory and models that can strengthen our understanding of, and assistance to, various categories of family businesses. The research literature upon which this study is based falls into several categories: family business, gender differences in management and entrepreneur ship, and women in family business.

BACKGROUND

This section presents a comprehensive review of the literature from three areas of research: family business, gender differences in management and entrepreneurship, and women in family business. The next section continues the literature review to provide the bases for ten hypotheses tested in this study.

Family Business

Business ownership and management in the United States tends to run in families (Dennis, 2002). Within the U.S. economy, family businesses comprise an estimated 80 percent of the total 15 million businesses (Carsrud, 1994; Kets de Vries, 1993). They contribute more than 50 percent of the total Gross National Product (McCann, Leon-Guerrero & Haley, 1997), 50 percent of employment (Morris, Williams, Alien & Avila, 1997), and have higher annual sales than non-family businesses (Chaganti & Schneer, 1994). Furthermore, it is estimated that 35 percent of Fortune 500 firms are family owned (Carsrud, 1994), and one-third of S&P 500 companies have founding families involved in management (Weber & Lavelle, 2003). Certainly an understanding of the various issues and aspects of family business should be of interest to scholars in the fields of small business and entrepreneurship. Yet most of the family business literature is conceptual or involves non-quantitative research and, furthermore, relatively few articles in this field have been published in broad-based small business and entrepreneurship journals (Dyer & Sânchez, 1998; Litz, 1997).

Family business as a field of study has grown from modest beginnings to a substantial conceptual and theoretical body of knowledge at the start of the twenty-first century. Prior to 1975, a few theorists, such as Christensen (1953), Donnelley (1964), and Levinson (1971), investigated family firms, yet the field was largely neglected (Lansberg, Perrow, & Rogolsky, 1988). These early studies were generally conceptual rather than empirical, with a focus on the more fundamental issues, such as what makes a business a "family business" or a "family firm" (the terms are used interchangeably), the dynamics of succession, intra-family conflict, and consulting to such firms (Handler, 1989; Sharma, Chrisman, & Chua, 1997). …

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