For All the Shivs Out There: Father-Daughter Succession in Irish Family Businesses

Surprisingly primogeniture is still an accepted approach to family business succession planning in most Western economies. This is even more surprisingly given the backdrop of women’s increasing participation in the global workforce in general and in the family business context in particular. In fact, daughters are often not socialized for family business leadership and are usually overlooked during the grooming process. Moreover, daughter succession is generally an inadvertent event that is triggered by a crisis or when there is no viable male successor. My recent paper with Martina Brophy from DCU National Centre for Family Business and Professor Richard Harrison from the University of Edinburgh, shows that establishing credibility as the next heir can be particularly challenging for daughters.

Our empirical evidence is based on a study of five Irish family businesses in which the father chose a daughter to succeed him when there was an eligible son in the business and in so doing, went against cultural and social norms.To be eligible to take part in the research, the father had to be alive at the time of the interviews and each daughter had to have a brother who featured in the business.We thus conducted a series of interviews with both fathers and daughters in order to examine the strategies and barriers that women must engage and overcome in order to be recognised as the legitimate leader by both family and non-family members and wider stakeholders such as customers and suppliers.

The findings highlight how daughters have to engage in greater efforts than sons to overcome perceptions of gender inequality and build a legitimate successor identity, and to be recognised as the company’s leader by both family and non-family members and wider stakeholders, as the role of successor is traditionally male and the right of the eldest son. Furthermore, although daughters rely on certain father-daughter relations such as preparation, endorsement and credibility by association for legitimacy, they also need to develop independently from their father in order to heighten their own visibility and establish credibility. While adequate preparation is important for all successors, regardless of gender, this study finds that an early grooming process is particularly vital for daughters in building a legitimate successor identity.  

Some of the ways in which female successors were found to be doing this was by adopting a different style of leadership to their fathers (typically moving away from a traditional top-down approach) and introducing radical ideas or significant changes to make their mark.  In short, daughter successors must engage in particular forms of identity work if they are to overcome the general invisibility of women in family businesses.

This research was featured in the Irish Times on the 9th of Oct 2020

McAdam, M., Brophy, M., and Harrison, R.T., 2020. Anointed or appointed? Father-daughter succession within the family business. International Small Business Journal, p.0266242620948349

DCU and the Sustainable Development Goals Event- May 2019

A one-day conference and workshop featuring scholars from across the university, highlighting key DCU research relating to the SDG’s and promoting future cross-faculty collaboration took place on the 3rd of May, 2019.

DCU is actively developing its commitment to the furtherance of sustainable development goals and already has considerable expertise in this regard. This event was an innovative platform to incentivize and encourage further work, to share the valuable insights generated by DCU researchers, and enhance the impact of the university’s work output.

This event allowed each of the 17 SDG goals to be highlighted and discussed by a member of DCU academic staff who is internationally recognized within this topic. It was an honor to be invited to discuss SDG 5 – Gender Equality and its relevance in informing my own personal research agenda. The aim of SDG 5 is to Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. During my presentation, I highlighted that “women” are often used as a proxy for gender and as a result, this may serve to exclude other gendered subjectivities. With regards to the identification of future research avenues, I referred to the importance of intersectionality, cyberfeminism, and masculinity, with regards to moving the gender agenda forward.

The Banbridge Leader- Maura’s project supports women

An international consortium led by Professor Maura McAdam at Dublin City University, has been awarded €994,133 to help tackle gender inequalities in Ireland’s entrepreneurial sector.

Professor Maura McAdam, who is from Banbridge, will work with researchers from Norway, Israel, Sweden and Ireland on the three-year project entitled Overcoming the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Gender Divide: A Cross-Cultural Perspective to provide an understanding of how gender is a decisive factor in women’s participation in entrepreneurship, with a focus on women in technology.

It will generate new insights and knowledge whilst providing tools to visualise and challenge underlying gender imbalances that inhibit the process of innovation in entrepreneurship. It is hoped that a cross-cultural comparison between the four partner countries will help to explain variations and similarities with regard to gender in entrepreneurship ecosystems.

The funding was awarded under Gender-Net Plus, an EU-funded initiative that aims to strengthen links between researchers in different countries, and support gender equality through institutional change.

Professor Maura McAdam, Professor of Management and Director of Entrepreneurship at DCU’s Business School said: “There is an assumption that all entrepreneurs have equal access to resources, participation and support, as well as an equal chance of a successful outcome. However, my latest research shows that women are underrepresented in successful entrepreneurial ecosystems, and that a persistent gender bias continues to exist in entrepreneurship discourse and practice. I am delighted to take the lead on this project and look forward to working with all of my international colleagues to ultimately help attain gender equality in the entrepreneurship domain in particular and also within broader society.”

DCU gets €1m funding to examine issues affecting female entrepreneurs

Dublin City University is leading a consortium that has been awarded almost €1 million in funding to help address the gender balance in Ireland’s entrepreneurial sector.

The project, entitled “Overcoming the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Gender Divide: A Cross-Cultural Perspective”, will look at how gender affects women’s participation in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, and will specifically focus on technology.

The funding was awarded under GENDER-NET Plus, an EU-funded initiative that aims to strengthen links between researchers in different countries, and support gender equality through institutional change. GENDER-NET Plus is also promoting the integration of sex and gender analysis into research.

The consortium, which includes researchers from NorwayIsraelSweden and Ireland, is being headed by Maura McAdam, professor of management and director of entrepreneurship at DCU’s business school. The DCU-led research project is a three-year programme.

Insights

The project is intended to provide new insights into underlying gender imbalances in the entrepreneurship sector, while also creating tools to visualise and challenge factors affecting innovation in the sector.

“There is an assumption that all entrepreneurs have equal access to resources, participation and support, as well as an equal chance of a successful outcome. However, my latest research shows that women are underrepresented in successful entrepreneurial ecosystems, and that a persistent gender bias continues to exist in entrepreneurship discourse and practice,” Prof McAdam said.

The inclusion of researchers from different countries will allow for a cross-cultural comparison that could help to explain variations and similarities with regard to gender in entrepreneurship ecosystems and also identify trends relating to gender in technology entrepreneurship despite different political contexts and structures.