Male or female head: Does it really matter in family business?-A A +A
Family Business Forum
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
FOR many, perhaps most families operating a household business, gender issues are hardly discussed or even noticed at all. Admittedly, such a claim is awkward, but it points to the reality of how family business owners, couples in particular, tend to accommodate equilibrium maintenance attempts between family business operations and their family life.
Family business owners may have considerable monetary advantage than families in which only the husband or wife has a job. Ideally, a family business can mean two or more multiple earners. The difference between these two families could mean being able or unable to send children to school, own or rent a house, pay grocery and utility bills, provide adequate health care and realize dreams of more material comfort. But the issue of who does what at home in terms of household chores and business jobs in a family business oriented household has to be raised.
It should be noted that the one child family, the single parent family, the childless family, the extended family and so on, though engaged in ‘family business’ may have gender equality problems and are distinctively different from a nuclear family. Strictly speaking, a nuclear family would have a couple, a boy and a girl. In essence, this article focuses only on gender issues affecting nuclear families that operate their own business enterprises. Of course, this position deserves very careful scrutiny.
I also add that not all couples and members of a family business are entrepreneurs. The ability to innovate – to act entrepreneurially, can put the male or female entrepreneurs difficult to deal with. This is seen most often in the differential treatment of the other sex hereby imposing or expecting a particular behavior from the rest of the family business.
Essentially, an entrepreneur is a person who starts a new business venture. However, we tend to think of entrepreneurs as people who have a talent for seeing opportunities and the abilities to develop those opportunities into profit-making businesses.
Are entrepreneurs born or made? The debate still rages, but the current consensus is that successful entrepreneurs share a constellation of personality traits. In other words, some people are naturally more entrepreneurial than others.
Furthermore, this article also stresses that gender issues can be present in various categories of the family life cycle. The family life cycle categories are:
1. Beginning families
2. Childbearing families
3. Pre-school families
4. School-age families
5. Families launching careers
6. Families in the middle years
7. Age families
Such different family categories may account for some long term ‘unequal’ relationship between the sexes – starting even before the initial stage of establishing the family business until beyond the succession phase. The terms ‘patriarch’ and ‘matriarch’ say it all.
Indeed, what this article has to offer is to raise interesting questions and refrain from giving easy answers to gender issues affecting nuclear families engaged in business enterprises. The questions are:
1. Who has legitimate managerial discretion in domestic and business operations?
2. Who determines ownership, production, prices, marketing and earnings in the family business?
3. Who represents the family business in the marketplace? Is it the ‘Sir’ or the ‘Ma’am’?
4. Who is helping or assisting (not sharing, in household maintenance as well as family operations)?
5. Who is deciding what must be done, when and how in both jobs?
6. Who spends most time with the children? Is the husband closely involved in child care and child rearing?
7. Who comes up with standard work schedule in the family business? Who works only a portion of business operations of any day, week or month? Who institutes ‘flexi time’ arrangements that allow other members when to work given specified limits?
8. How do couples engaged in family business relate to gender by the way they carry their household and family business tasks?
9. How do wives and husbands ‘display’ their gender in community affairs?
10. How do family members enact their roles as husband or wife or mother or son or daughter in running the family business? Who is the family business specialist among them? Conversely, who is the household specialist? How is household tasks divided among them? How is business tasks divided among them?
11. Who makes the greatest sacrifices and performs the greatest amount of dirty work in both household and business operations?
The way parents label their son in terms of the husband’s trait (“bossy, always having to do business his way”) or how the daughter carries the tag that labeled the mother “stubborn or hardheaded and does not obey rules” are also part of gender issues that should be addressed by the family. Other gender issues may also include battering (physical or emotional, or financial) and marginalization of the weaker family member.
Conclusion: Gender Issues – Do they matter in Family Business?
Two considerations suggest that they do matter. First, tradition shows that income generation and leadership responsibilities should be handled by the husbands and wives should be in-charge of domestic chores. But the similarities between men and women are greater than their differences. Business and family concerns are similar for the two sexes. Thus, it likely that women who are good in household chores are also good in business operations as well.
Second, the records of women and mothers who are business owners indicate that there are few differences between them and their businessmen-husbands. Juggling family life and business is part of present day marriages.
Relationships within households reflect the business norms of the family which in turn reflects the norms of society.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 22, 2012.