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Family Business and the Differences in the Way Women and Men Think

A healthy small business sector is essential to any economy. Who runs small businesses? Families of course! Moms, dads, business couples, multiple generations… This means having a healthy economy depends on keeping families happy together and successful in business. For that to happen we must better understand dynamics in the family business and the differences in the way women and men think.

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking at Truck World, a mega-trade show for the trucking and logistics industry. During two 30-minute “Knowledge Stop” sessions, I covered two key areas where women and men differ in their approach:

father being hugged by his daughter and wifeDifference #1: Women tend to attach greater importance to their (family) relationships when making business decisions

This assertion comes from multiple sources, but I will quote only a few:

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has surveyed both female and male entrepreneurs across the globe since 1999. It has repeatedly found women entrepreneurs to be taking into consideration their family circumstances when making business decisions. In many developing countries, women become entrepreneurs because they have no other choice. They do this to survive and feed their families. Often because there is no male breadwinner. Even when they are successful, these women continue to view expansion and diversification through the lens of family.

This, more than their male counterparts. A 2016 study by Carleton University and BMO reported female entrepreneurs perceive risk both in terms of economic and social values. This differs from traditional “business” approaches that consider risk mainly from an economic point of view. Women are much more likely, for instance, to consider the impact a decision may have on her family or the reputation of the company.

Difference #2: Women suffer greater consequences when making a WRONG decision

side view of dark haired woman looking sad while she reads her phoneStudies have shown how women are often more harshly criticized if they make a wrong decision, especially if they are in a male-dominated field. Criticized by both women and men, unfortunately.

In her excellent book How Women Decide, Therese Huston argues that this often makes women more deliberate in their approach to risk. Some might say more cautious, but the research has not proven that. Huston makes a compelling case for women going to great lengths to take in more data points, and be more inclusive in their decision-making process. This means asking around, including others in their deliberations. Not just family members, but employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.

These differences show up in business couple dynamics, as I addressed in the Making Money with Your Honey. And it these differences also show up when, as an owner, you start thinking about succession planning in your family business. The topic of family business and the differences in the way women and men think can produce a minefield of disagreements. Just remember that it’s not about making one gender right or wrong. It’s about being happier, in love and business!


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