Women in Family Business

A different form of succession



Comic 2Introduction into the topic

Selecting the right person for succession is one of the most important tasks for a successful continuity of a family enterprise. If selection is made within the family, the adequate person has to be chosen among the family members of the next generation. In former times rarely a daughter has been selected. But this situation is about to change. More and more family enterprises are handed over to qualified female successors.

The challenges and characteristics of such a „female succession“ are more or less not unknown. It is, however, more or less clear to all participating parties that this situation is somehow different to a “male” succession. The relation of a daughter to her father – in most cases it is the father who hands over the enterprise – is usually quite different to the relation between father and son. Daughters are often more able to stand alongside the father without feeling forced “to steal his crown”. Daughters follow later and often such transition bear less conflicts as the succession of a son. What is the reason for this and which personal qualities and requirements female successors need is the major research interest of the scientists at the WIFU.


Witten Findings on Daughters in Succession

A qualitative analysis of the curricula vitae of female successors has shown that women are only asked for help if the emergency case has already appeared in the family enterprise, and then they can or rather have to face the challenges of succession. This can be explained by the fact that daughters are often not recognized as potential successors (often they even do not see themselves as such), until in an emergency situation they are pitchforked as “the last alternative” into an exposed position. Female successors that are already chosen in an early stage to be the successor are mainly the oldest child or one of several daughters.

Detailed research on the motivation and reasons of daughters that have taken office in their family business has shown that daughters fell less often obliged to assume the role as successor. In most cases they have real interest in the business and the own career plays also an important role. Here also the topic to compatibility of family and job are essential. Female successors understand their family business as an environment where they have the opportunity not only to do a job but also to make a career and at the same time fulfil demands of the own family.

WIFU Knowhow on the Topic

Contact person: Dominique Otten-Pappas and Prof. Dr. Arist von Schlippe

Project: Women in Family Business

Events: Forum Family Business

Further Literature:

WIFU Working Paper 10: Daughters in Succession – Results of a Survey of Family Members of Entrepreneurial Families (only in German available)

Entrepreneurial Journal “Unternehmermagazin”: Lebenslanger Altruismus? Frauen in Familienunternehmen


Further information on the topic succession in general is available here.