STEP Conversation #2:Gender in Family Business

05 October 2022
Research: Gender in Family Business: A Socio-Constructivist Perspective.

And 2! "Gender in Family Business" was the  second theme  in our STEP conversation series in partnership with the STEP Project Global Consortium (SPGC).

On the TV show, we find teacher-researchers from Paris and Quebec. Through the replay, you will be able to relive the fascinating exchanges of our guests on the influence of gender in the dynamics of a family business.

But before anything else, a definition was needed:

What is gender? What is the difference with biological sex? We shed light on this question by characterizing gender as a social construction that refers to norms and role models and we then focused on the evolution of the gender issue over time in our Western societies. We also questioned the exclusive connection of this theme to women entrepreneurs, showing that men are also concerned.

To answer these questions, we invited:

  • Christina CONSTANTINIDIS - Director of the Observatory on Entrepreneurship and Gender at ESG UQAM in Montreal
  • Renaud REDIEN-COLLOT - Director of the ISC Paris Research Laboratory
  • Natalia VERSHININA - Professor of Entrepreneurship at Audencia

Indeed, the notion of sex refers to biological differences between individuals. Gender was initially introduced by sociologists to identify socially constructed differences between men and women in terms of social roles attached to one sex or another. Social scientists have highlighted the gendered attitudes and behaviours that women and men must conform to, which reinforces the gender system, i.e. the relative power of women and men in society.

Beyond the binary gender distinction between woman and men, current researchers highlight the plurality of strategies through which women and men 'make' gender in everyday life. Several forms of masculinity and femininity exist and are implemented by women and men entrepreneurs, depending on the context.

In addition, gender is also, beyond individuals, about how sectors of activity and jobs are gendered. The entrepreneurial processes and activities are gendered, as are all the activities of the family business, which are all constructed as rather masculine and feminine.

How can a social construction of gender contribute to research on family businesses?

Three main ideas can be drawn from this:

  1. The rule of male primogeniture is an old normative postulate in family businesses
  2. Profound transformations in gender roles and relations in today's societies are changing norms in family businesses
  3. The profound transformation underway since the 1960s has led to the evolution of the historical patriarchal system towards a more egalitarian system of gender relations.

These transformations affect:

  • Individual behaviours, interpersonal relationships, family systems and business context.
  • The choice of the successor: who is considered able to run the family business for the next generation becomes a complex issue as the rule of male primogeniture is increasingly questioned.
  • Traditional norms are being challenged: women are increasingly seen as potential successors on an equal footing with men.

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