When Women Lead
Many women can make inspired CEOs of family-owned businesses.
- More women are earning business degrees at the undergraduate
and graduate level, thus providing them with the skills
necessary to take over a company. "Education has become
a lever for daughters to be taken seriously," says
Timothy G. Habbershon, director of the Institute for
Family Enterprise at Babson College.
- Daughters often find learning the business from
their dads is easier for them than it is for their
brothers, who can get into testosterone-driven intergenerational
- While many male CEOs of family firms take a command-and-control
approach to management, women overall take a collaborative,
team-building approach. "This can be very welcome,"
says Nan Langowitz, Ph.D., co-founder and faculty
director, Center for Women's Leadership at Babson
College. Coupled with listening, this can give women
the edge in obtaining information about the company
and the employees, says Dan Rottenberg of Family Business
magazine, who points to the quiet effectiveness of
the sheriff in the movie Fargo as a model of these
traits in action.
- A Babson College/MassMutual report, "Women in Family-Owned
Businesses," found that woman-owned family firms in
the United States were more productive than those
headed by men, more likely to retain family members
as workers and more concerned about philanthropic
endeavors in their communities.
- Many daughters don't view taking over the family
business as an automatic entitlement. They work hard
to learn the business and earn workers' respect. Often
the daughters ask to become involved.
Encouraging Girl Power
If you want to raise a daughter to become CEO of your
family firm, Judy Preston, a family firm consultant
- Resisting a parent's instinct to protect daughters
to the point where it damages self-esteem and sense
- Giving daughters and sons positive reinforcement
about their abilities.
- Challenging all children to solve situational or
mathematical problems, so they use their thinking
- Encouraging hobbies that develop problem-solving
- Exposing all children to the business at an early
age and making sure to teach them all the same parts
of the enterprise.
- Employing them in the business while they're still
in school so they can determine if they're interested
- Sending them off to gain experience after college
so they know the pluses and minuses of working elsewhere.
- Selecting the child, male or female, with the skills
that best fit the job.
The Ritz-Carlton, Winter 2005
Kelly Gray, the iconic ice-blond model in the St. John advertisements,
started by wrapping samples for store buyers at her parents' company
when she was just 12. Nell Newman began by persuading her dad, actor
and gourmet entrepreneur Paul Newman, that organic pretzels needn't
taste like animal treats. Alessia Antinori launched her career laboring
the Italian vineyards owned by her father. Jennifer LeRoy started
with menial jobs in her father's glamorous Manhattan restaurants,
including Tavern on the Green.
Though their beginnings may have been varied, these and other women
have gone on to take leadership positions in their family firms,
changing the way business is done and highlighting a shift away
from one of the oldest traditions in family-owned businesses: passing
control to the eldest son.
All in the family
One factor in particular seems to be driving the trend of bequeathing
a business to a daughter. While women have excelled in business
for decades, more "senior-generation males," as business experts
call them, are now comfortable working with women as their bankers,
lawyers, analysts and consultants. "When all these fathers were
just starting their business. the model was the heroic, commanding
patriarch who knows all the answers and makes all the decisions,
and everyone else just implements them," says Joyce Fletcher, Ph.D.,,
a professor of management at Simmons School of Management in Boston.
But times have changed. Even for traditionally minded fathers, working
with accomplished women makes it a shorter leap to seeing your daughter
as the right person to take your company to the next stage of its
It's a trend that seems destined only to pick up speed as time goes
on: Thirty-nine percent of family-owned businesses in the United
States will experience a change in leadership in the next five years
as CEOs retire or take on a reduced role, found the MassMutual/Raymond
Institute American Family Business Survey. In companies where a
successor has been chosen, the survey did find that it's likely
to be a 40-year-old male with a college education. But in cases
where a successor has yet to be tapped, m ore than 34 percent of
firms said their next CEO might well be a woman - up 9 percent from
when the same question was asked in 1997.
"There's so much change ... over the next 10 years, it will be much
more natural" for women to be taking over family businesses, says
Amy Millman, president of the non-profit Springboard Enterprises,
which has been tracking women in business for 25 years. "Sons now
have role models mothers running companies. Daughters are getting
MBAs and are coming to take it to the next level. We're light-years
from where we were 10 years ago. It's a tipping point in time."
What women do best
So what makes a woman a good fit for taking the helm at her family's
company? As with any good leader, education, experience and pass
are key, of course. But a woman may in fact be a better choice to
run things in the current business climate: Studies show women tend
to perform as well as or better than men in all leadership qualities,
Fletcher says, and research reveals, too, that women are typically
more skilled at communication and collaborations - both of which
tend to correlate with increased productivity and profitability
as a company matures (and which are more effective than a "command
and control" approach, experts say). "Globalization and diversity
have made teamwork and collaboration much more important," Fletcher
says. "It's transformational rather than transactional leadership."
Fletcher calls having a shared vision, listening to colleagues and
employees and paying attention to people and what they need essential
to effecting change, especially in a company going through a significant
transition or in a turnaround situation. "The distribution model
of leadership is that wisdom and expertise reside at all levels
of the workplace," Fletcher explains. "The most effective leader
creates and environment that's inclusive, in which all that knowledge
is brought to bear."
Which describes, in short, what these prominent women did up on
assuming leadership positions in their family firms. Antinori found
that delegating was essential for her effectiveness, while New man
learned the value of listening and artful compromise. LeRoy learned
that "as long as you follow your instincts, no matter how young
or old you are, you'll be successful." Gray came to better understand
her biggest strengths - and weaknesses - to determine which responsibilities
she needed someone else to handle. And Laudomia Pucci realized that
limited resources would keep her father's fashion house from reaching
its full potential. Here, a look at how these and other daring daughters
learned to lead.
Alessia Antinori, 28
Winemaker//Marchesi Antinori Wines
For many, the name Antinori means Tuscan wines, thanks to the
efforts of Antinori's father, Piero, with whom she shares sales
and marketing duties. But Antinori's beginnings at the family business
were decidedly more modest. After earning a degree in winemaking,
she had to earn respect, even though she the 26th generation in
the family business. "I never wanted to be considered the daughter
of my father," she says. It took her several years to prove herself
in the vineyards, traditionally a male preserve. She willingly did
her share of backbreaking work during the harvests, driving a tractor
to collect boxes heavy with just-picked grapes. "After they saw
that I had the energy to do it, they saw a woman can also be a winemaker,"
she recalls. During that trial period, Antinori "learned to be humble,"
which she says is the more important lesson, a touchstone still
in her everyday work. It helps her "recognize you can't do everything
and that you have to delegate to other people that you trust so
that they can do it for you in a better way." One of three sisters
involved in the family business, she now focuses on expanding her
family's centuries-old tradition of winemaking into Asian markets
and oversees anew northern Italian winery that will produce methode
Kelly Gray, 38
Creative Director//St. John Knits, Inc.
Grey's family firm, St. John Knits, started in 1962, with her
mother Marie designing the line and her father Bob as CEO. By age
14, Gray was modeling in the showroom in 1981, she began appearing
in the company's print ads. Named advertising executive in 1984,
she told her father her goal: to be creative director, which would
make Gray responsible for selling, advertising and marketing, as
well as selecting colors and fabrics and approving final designs.
To prepare herself for the role, Gray spent two years learning the
company's manufacturing and retail operations. In 2002, Bob Gray
retired, naming his daughter and Bruce Fetter as co-CEOs. "The stock
dropped 10 points that day," recalls Gray. "I had to convince analysts
that the company hadn't made a terrible decision." Gray's father
stepped aside - something family business experts say is crucial
to the success of any successor - but being a CEO didn't suit Gray.
So in September 2004, she chose to step down from her CEO post while
retaining her creative director title, a move in keeping with the
"do what is best for the company" attitude her parents instilled
in her. "I'm a lot better working on the product," she says.
Jennifer Oz LeRoy, 26
When the flamboyant Walter LeRoy, owner of holdings that include
New York City's Tavern on the Green and the Russian Tea Room restaurants,
died in 2001, he left daughter Jennifer, then just 22, to oversee
his empire. Media speculation dogged LeRoy, even though she had
worked her way up from the bottom, starting by washing dishes, hauling
produce and rolling 3,000 pats of butter a day at Tavern, the top-grossing
restaurant in the United States. "I was the owner's daughter. I
could have just walked around in a suit all day, but instead I was
in the kitchen piping butter for four hours a day. I don't think
anyone expected me to last very long," she says. For three months,
at 19, she also shadowed the kitchen expediter, who assembles as
many as 4,000 dinners daily; when the expediter left, Leroy stepped
in. "The experience that really sticks out was the first holiday
that I worked as an expediter - Mother's Day. I was in charge ...
and I had to rise to the occasion and manage the entire kitchen
staff." She was vice president of both restaurants before her father
died, spending mornings at the Tavern on the Green and evenings
at the Russian Tea Room. "And in my down time, my dad would teach
me about the financial side of the company." So when she became
CEO, she knew the business. "I knew more of the practicality of
a restaurant than he did. ... He would consult me for practical
advice." One of the first changes she made was selling the Russian
Tea Room in 2002. It was a quick decision, with her accountant telling
her mid-week that there wasn't enough money to pay staff through
the week. She was advised to close quietly that night. Refusing
to let her staff go unpaid, she told them of the closing, then "I
went with my gut instinct" and told the press the coming weekend
would the landmark's last. It was one of the best in the restaurant's
history and allowed her to pay her staff. It also taught her an
important lesson: "I believe that as long as you follow your instinct,
no matter how young or old you are, you'll be successful. You just
have to believe in yourself."
Laudomia Pucci, 43
When she was younger, Pucci never planned on taking over her father's
fashion house, but the political science graduate received a warm
welcome when she became CEO upon his death in 1992. She ran the
business "as a little jewel" she recalls. "I was able to preserve
it, keeping its image perfect," until making the difficult decision
to sell 67 percent of the company's capital to luxury powerhouse
LVMH in spring 2000. "I realized that such an important brand needed
more in terms of human resources, know-how, structure and stores,
all of which, of course, involved investment," she explains. Today,
Pucci serves as image director, which is "very closely tied to my
experience, on the one hand, as the owner, and, on the other hand,
having been in the business for 20 years." She meets with the press
and clients and lectures at fashion schools. She works closely with
Christian Lacroix, who came aboard as designer after the LVMH purchase.
Changes have been many and visible. In 2001, the company unveiled
the first Emilio Pucci furniture collection, conceived with furniture
designer Cappellini. Newly designed boutiques worldwide attracted
another generation of shoppers, many of whom knew the brand from
coveted vintage pieces. The flagship shop in Manhattan moved from
its longtime location in an East Side townhouse to highly visible
Fifth Avenue in July. Pucci pushed to revive designs identified
with Marilyn Monroe for the Paris store opening. She guided the
introduction of sneakers in signature prints, launched the Emilio
Pucci bottle for Veuve Clicquot's "Grande Dame" Champagne and worked
with Bulgari to create a look for Nicole Kidman's appearance at
Cannes. She's directly involved in the Web site, packaging and catalogs,
and has organized the archives " so they can be used for inspiration
and product development," finding forgotten original designs and
colors in the process. "I make sure we innovate and that Pucci's
DNA doesn't get lost along the way."
Nell Newman, 45
Co-founder and president//Newman's Own Organics
Newman is quick to point out the natural progression from the
company's first product - Paul Newman's olive oil and vinegar salad
dressing - to her own organic-only line. "My dad refused to add
artificial preservatives or artificial colors to his original dressing
because he wanted it 100 percent natural," she says. Newman launched
Newman's Own Organics with her partner and friend Peter Meehan in
1993, a year after convincing her father that "organic" wasn't synonymous
with "tastes grainy" by feeding him a Thanksgiving dinner that was
all organic. Convinced, "Pa" Newman then offered his daughter and
Meehan $15,000 each and covered one year's expenses to research
the feasibility of an organic product line - with one stipulations:
If they started a business, they would return the seed money so
it could be added to the profits he famously turns over to charity.
The first product was an organic version of "Pa's" favorite snack,
pretzels, and the endeavor took off. By 2001, Newman and Meehan's
organic division had become and independent company with all profits
going to charity; 2003 saw the introduction of organic pet food.
Bagged organic salad greens and organic dried fruit were recently
introduced. Newman's success is, she believes, firmly rooted in
her passion for the environment, and sustainable agriculture in
particular. Newman also says having a clear vision of adding organic
products to an already successful business fueled that passion.
"You have to be both passionate and vaguely nuts to go into a family
business," she says, adding that passion may be something women
bring to a business in greater amounts than men because of the way
"they get involved emotionally in something they really care about."
In her case, passion and vision propelled her into the business.
Now she calls herself "an outspoken environmentalist who became
a businessperson. I was always interested in the family business,
but I've had to learn to listen, to deal with conflicting perspectives.
Being in business has made me a better person."
More Daring Daughters
Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala
V ice Chairwoman, Grupo Televisa S.A.
Aramburuzabala ranks among the world's most powerful businesswomen.
Her father, Pablo, grew family-owned Corona beer into an international
brand; upon his death, she turned around one of Grupo Modelo's lagging
divisions. By selling a non-controlling stake in the family business,
Aramburuzabala was able to buy into Grupo Televisa, the largest
media company in the Spanish-speaking world.
Christie Hefner, Chairman and CEO
Playboy Enterprises Inc.
Hefner, daughter to Hugh, joined her father's enterprise in 1975,when
she was just a year out of college. In 1988, she succeeded him at
Playboy, making her one of the first women to hold the title CEO
at a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Hefner reorganized
business operations and Playboy's financial structure, including
closing the famed Playboy Clubs, and, in 1994, put Playboy on the
Web. Hefner has transformed Playboy into an international multimedia
Abigail Johnson, President
Fidelity Management & Research Co.
Johnson is widely seen as being groomed to take over her family's
firm, Fidelity Investments, where she started full-time in 1988
after earning an MBA from Harvard Business School and rose to head
FMR Co., the investment advisor to Fidelity's family of mutual funds,
including Magellan. Her grandfather, Edward C. Johnson II, founded
the company in 1946, and her father, Edward C. Johnson III, 70,
has been Fidelity's chairman and chief executive since 1977.
Aerin Lauder, Vice President of Global Advertising
In this all-in-the-family business, cousin William Lauder is CEO
and Aerin Lauder is responsible for maintaining the upscale image
of her late grandmother's enterprise. Her personal style and social
presence keep the multibillion-dollar cosmetics empire, which now
includes the Origins, Prescriptives and MAC brands, on red carpets
Tami Longaberger, CEO
The Longaberger Company
Longaberger joined her father's basket-making company in 1984,
when it had 625 employees and $19 million in sales. At the time,
she was the only college graduate in the 12-person corporate offices
in Newark, Ohio. "My father told me to spend the next five years
learning," she remembers. "That was the start of earning respect."
The Longaberger Company now employs 5,500 people. In 2003, it posted
$833 million in revenue. The company's older handcrafted baskets
sells briskly to collectors, with some fetching more than $1,000
in online auctions.
Pat Moran, Chairman
JM Family Enterprises
Moran heads this diversified automotive corporation, founded by
her father Jim in 1968 and ranked as the 15th largest privately-held
company in the United States by Forbes magazine. Now a $7.7 billion
force in the industry, in 2004 JM Family Enterprises was ranked
by Fortune magazine as the 19th-best company to work for in the
United States (its sixth consecutive year on the list), owing to
perks like on-site childcare, wellness and fitness programs, and
a summer job program for employees' children.
Lubna Olayan, CEO
Olayan Financing Co.
Based in Saudi Arabia, Olayan now heads the company her father
founded. In 2001, the group - which is involved in a range of activities
from real estate and financial services to manufacturing - had estimated
sales of $1 billion, more than $2 billion in assets and 8,800 employees.
Marjorie Yang, CEO
The Esquel Group
In 1995, Yang became chairman of the Hong Kong company started
by her father in 1978. Every year, the company supplies some 60
million cotton shirts to brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss and
Brooks Brothers, and to retailers including Nordstrom, and in the
U.K., Marks & Spencer and Muji. Yang, who believes that business
should contribute to society, has built primary schools and libraries
in rural China.