WOMEN TAKING THE REINS OF FAMILY BUSINESS IN INCREASING NUMBERS

It may come as a surprise to know that the family business is one of the most common business models worldwide and even more surprising is the statistic that in Australia, family businesses account for 70% of all our businesses and employ half of our workforce. The sector is worth approximately $4.3 trillion and has its own peak body to provide support and information for its members.

It is also interesting to note that women make up just over one-third of all Australian business operators and the numbers of women who are running their family businesses are expected to equal males within the next few years. This acceleration away from male domination of family businesses is driven by the rapid take up of university education over the past few decades by females, and the support provided within the family business structure which is generally not available in private enterprise.

A typical example is the flexibility family businesses offer female leaders regarding child-rearing and personal family demands, which the corporate world is now recognising but is still slow to provide. Family businesses are also well ahead in their willingness and desire to trust and empower female leaders.

Reliable, authoritative studies have consistently found that women in management positions make fairer decisions, are more consultative, work to seek consensus before making decisions and are quick to adopt new governance practices. This applies equally across all business structures including family businesses.

There are unique dynamics involved in taking a leadership role in a family business. The two levels of relationship involved, being professional and family, become all the more complex when managers and team members are related to each other. Sometimes a female family member may become CEO unexpectedly following a sudden death in the family, but generally, the appointment comes as a result of sound business knowledge coupled with relevant experience.

Women in leadership positions would also be aware that generally speaking, women in the workplace are disadvantaged when it comes to accumulating sufficient superannuation to support them in retirement. The causes of this imbalance between male and female participants in the workforce are, as would be expected, are extended absences to bear and raise children, and later in life, further absences to provide care for elderly parents or relatives.

These accumulated absences can amount to many months if not years, interrupting careers with subsequent loss of income on which superannuation contributions are based. Women running family businesses are in an excellent position to establish self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) to ensure that all their employees, including family members and other women are members of funds that work towards ensuring comfortable financial circumstances in retirement.

These female leaders are also likely to recognise that to personally manage the day-to-day operations of their SMSFs would interfere with their ability to run their family businesses. To overcome this issue and provide assurance to the fund members that the fund is complying with all ATO reporting requirements, they are likely to engage companies such as SMSF Assure to handle all the administrative details on their behalf.