Sunday, May 19, 2019

Soriano: Most powerful women leaders running family businesses

“STUDIES have shown that women-owned firms outperformed the male-owned firms on many levels, including return on investment.”

All over the world and predominantly in Asia, family-owned enterprises have been dominated by men. We refer to this right of primogeniture as the exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son.

Wikipedia defines primogeniture as a right, by law or custom, of the first-born male child, in preference to siblings. In the absence of children, inheritance passed to collateral relatives, usually males, in order of seniority of their lines of descent.

Time and market complexities favoring women leaders

In one of Prof. Alderson’s articles about the role of women in family businesses, the percentage of women taking over management and ownership of their family business has increased significantly in recent years. Alderson adds, “In the past, it was common practice for the business to be passed on to the oldest son upon retirement or death of the founder. Women, until the last 20 years, were not usually considered to lead the family business. This is especially true in countries that have male-dominated cultures. Only if there were no male successors were women considered.”

The most influential 2nd generation women leaders: An inspiration

In the Philippines, there has been a noticeable change in the role of women leaders in family-owned businesses. Highlighting this change is the entry of next generation women successors managing the country’s biggest conglomerates.

I have listed three of the most powerful women successors with the objective of inspiring and challenging women in family-owned businesses to continuously raise the bar as they move up into positions of leadership and influence. These second generation women leaders whose accomplishments landed them in the Forbes Asia’s Top 50 Women Business leaders were cited for exemplifying a different kind of leadership in a male dominated business environment. These women wield significant power in making a difference in their respective family businesses.

SM’s Tessie Sy-Coson leads the pack

Teresita Sy-Coson of the SM Group. At 63, she is the eldest and undeniably the most influential among the six children of Henry and Felicidad Sy. The family business is the largest family-owned conglomerate in the Philippines with interests in banking, real estate, hotels, retail, convention centers and power.

Under her leadership, SMIC (SM Investment Corp.) became the largest listed company on the Philippine Stock Exchange by market capitalization. Tessie has been consistently in the list of the Forbes Asia Top Women Leaders. The estimated market capitalization of the SM consolidated businesses is at P1.5 trillion.

Josephine Gotianun-Yap, of the Filinvest Group, is not the eldest but considered the most qualified and highly educated amongst the Gotianun siblings. Joji is Jesuit-educated and a third in a brood of four and the only daughter. She is the president and CEO of Filinvest Development Corp. and flagship business Filinvest Land, Inc.

The family’s business interest is so diverse, covering real estate, banking, power generation and sugar mills. In 2013, Joji landed on Forbes Asia Magazine’s 2013 list of “Asia’s Top 50 Women Leaders.” She was cited as belonging to a roster of women who lead profitable companies and whose accomplishments stand out.

Her father, founder and visionary Andrew Gotinanun is in the Forbes list of the Top 50 Richest Filipinos with an estimated net worth of $1.4 Billion.

Vivian Que-Azcona is the president of privately-held company, Mercury Drug Corp., the country’s biggest drugstore chain. The company started in 1945, shortly after World War II. The founder, Mariano Que began selling bottles of medicine from a pushcart on the street. Today, Mercury Drug employs more than 12,000 employees operating close to a thousand stores nationwide and an estimated market share of more 65 percent. Mercury Drug is reportedly looking at a backdoor listing in the near future.

In 2014, Forbes ranked Vivian as the richest Filipina and 18th overall with a net worth of close to $1 billion. She has been consistently listed as the country’s highest taxpayer. The conglomerate counts among its interests in real estate, logistics, food, supermarket, bakeshops, pharmaceutical.

Women managers are awesome

Women business leaders have been making their mark. They have particular qualities that can be vital to the survival and success of a family business. As Prof. Alderson accurately pointed out, daughters are now considered to be among the most underutilized resources in family businesses.

To encourage the next generation of women to be valuable members of the business, potential female successors should be nurtured by assimilation into the family firm, mentoring, sharing of important tacit knowledge and having positive role models within the business.

A handful of family-owned enterprises in the Philippines are slowly realizing the significant contribution of women leaders in terms of growth and stability. It is time for our male-dominated culture to reboot and involve women in our quest for game-changing strategies to continue the legacy.

Women are awesome… And we cannot deny that!


(I will be in Cebu on April 24, a Friday, and Makati on April 30, a Thursday, to facilitate one of my bestselling one-day workshops entitled “Securing the future of your family business.” The venue in Cebu will be at Choi City in Banilad and in Makati at the AIM Conference Center. For more inquiries, please contact the organizer, Octopus Branding c/o John 0947-5070869 (Makati) and Prof. Danny Wong at +639178900063 (Cebu) for details. Slots are limited.)

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