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10 March 2016

PwC Next Generation Survey 2016: The Female Perspective

We’re marking International Women’s Day with a special release of our upcoming survey of the Next Generation of family business leaders focusing on women. We wanted to explore the perspectives of the female leaders-in-waiting who are hoping - many of them – to take over the firm one day. What issues do they face? Do they have the support they need to succeed, and if not, what factors are holding them back?

We’ve all seen the research studies that prove that companies run by women tend to outperform those run by men, and yet the number of businesses with women on their boards (never mind as CEO) is still depressingly low – our latest Women in Work Index shows that only 17% of OECD based companies have female directors, and in the US it’s even lower than that. Within our Next Gen survey group the number is actually significantly better, with 30% of the women we interviewed having a seat on the board. So despite the fact that they’re often seen as rather old-fashioned, family firms could just be ahead of the curve here, in looking to the female line for the talent they need to succeed in a fast-changing world.

But what about the women themselves – what’s their experience? We were surprised to find that, despite all the advances that have been made on equality in the workplace, many are markedly less self-assured than their male peers. These women are bright, ambitious, and prepared to work hard, and yet 45% still believe the next generation of men is more likely to run the business than they are, and only 21% say they will definitely be taking over the management, compared with 31% of men. Confidence is clearly still an issue, but it’s a hard nut to crack.


So what’s the answer? One viewpoint came from our report’s feature case study with Caroline Lubbers, a third generation from the Hotel Theatre Figi, in the Netherlands. A great role model, Caroline comes from a long line of strong women leaders, and a family firm that has encouraged her to take leadership. She states: “That’s why I am so dedicated to helping other women be successful, and why I make time for a women’s leadership circle for family businesses. It’s a chance to exchange experiences and inspire each other. And I put that into practice in my own business, where I mentor two young women who work for me. I’m also helping to set up an international network of women working in the cocoa and chocolate industries. Because empowering women is, and has always been, the best way to achieve real, positive change.”

As for the different ways men and women lead, Caroline believes women should celebrate that difference, not worry about doing things the same way as men: “Women just need to find their own leadership style, and have the confidence to follow that through. One of the things I want to do, personally, is help inspire women to do that, both inside our firm, and outside. Part of it is about accepting that it’s OK for men and women to have different goals and priorities in life. Not better, just different.”

Stephanie Hyde
Gender_Stephanie_HydeLeads PwC’s Global Next Generation Programme, heads the UK Regions and sits on the UK Board. Having graduated from Brunel University with a Mathematics and Management degree, she joined the firm in 1995 and became a partner in 2006. Before joining the Executive Board in 2011 she led PwC’s Assurance practice in Reading and has also led our mid-cap segment in the South East. Stephanie has worked in a number of our offices in the UK on clients ranging from private businesses through to FTSE100 companies.


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