#childsafety | Herald: Daughters in business

14 Sep 2020  |   05:30am IST

Daughters in business

Sunil Dias

One of the few things I admire about Donald Trump is this: He treats Ivanka, his daughter, at par (or better) than his sons in the family business and the presidency. In The Trump Organisation, she has significant ownership and managerial responsibilities. In the White House, she’s a Senior Advisor to the President and has wide powers. In contrast, in most business families in India, it’s the son that gets involved in the family business. It’s rare finding a daughter involved in the business. The patriarchs thinking is one of the following:

. A wife goes where her husband goes. If the husband wants to settle in another city/country, my daughter is not going to be able to manage the business from there.

. Children need their mother. If my daughter is involved in the business, either the business or the children (or both) suffer.

Times are changing. City of residence is becoming a joint decision of husband and wife. Taking care of children has become more gender neutral. Success stories of daughters running family businesses have increased in the last decade. On inspiring story is that of 35-year old Lavanvya Nalli, the Vice-Chairperson of Nalli Saris. What’s so great about her story? One, she’s got the meatier role in the $ 100 million family business than her brother. Her father has also stepped back from running the business. Two, her involvement in the family business has continued after marriage and a child. Three, she’s been given part ownership of the business along with her brother. Four, and perhaps most importantly, her husband runs his own business. A business unrelated to Lavanya’s family business. 

There are other success stories. Tanya and Nisa Godrej, the Reddy sisters of Apollo Hospital, the Paul sisters of Apeejay Surendra Group, Laxmi Venu of Tafe and TVS. And many of these ladies taking over are not because there are no sons to take over the family business. They are getting involved even when there are male inheritors in the business. A lot of the change has been driven by a higher emphasis in society on woman empowerment. Yet, successful daughters in a family business are still somewhat a rarity. So, what differentiates family businesses where daughters are involved in the management of the business? And is there anything a patriarch can do to increase the chances of his daughter successfully joining the family business? Fortunately, there are several ways to improve the odds. So, instead of leaving it to chance, use these four daughter-friendly tips. 

Tip #1: Gender equality begins at home

Our views on gender roles are largely based on the roles we encounter in our family, society and media. It helps to have a home where women have respect, an equal say in decisions and an opportunity to follow their passions. It sounds like pretty generic stuff. Yet, studies show that these things make a world of a difference to a daughter’s confidence. We emulate the examples we see as children. Many women leaders are fully involved in their children upbringing despite having full-time senior roles. They want their children to experience their professional life. 

Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of Pepsi had a simple rule to ensure that she got to spend time with her children. After 5 pm, her kids were free to come to her office to be with her, play and even sleep. And she ensured that neither she nor her husband were the ‘frontline parent’.A frontline parent is the parent who takes on a disproportionate responsibility of bringing up the children. 

Political leaders are setting good examples for businesspersons to emulate. The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Arden gave birth while in office, and after a 6-week break was back in office. Her husband took time off to look after the child. 

Tip #2: Don’t overdo opportunity

When trying to give opportunity, we often overcompensate. Leave something for your daughter to figure out. Make her struggle and earn her place in your organisation. Struggle is important to make a person grow. We tend to take for granted things we get to easily. 

The other important thing is to not create an artificial role in the organisation. While important for sons as well, it’s particularly common for daughters to be given a role which, all truth be told, doesn’t matter. How do you know it’s a role which doesn’t matter? Any role which can’t be succinctly described, or which can’t or doesn’t have any performance metrics usually doesn’t matter. 

Tip #3: Make the business female-friendly

You don’t need to discriminate against males to improve gender diversity in the workplace. Making a business female-friendly and giving equal opportunity will automatically improve diversity. What can you do to make the business female friendly? Safety and security, having strongly enforced sexual harassment policies, and fair maternity leave. The best test is whether your daughter feels comfortable in the working environment. If she’s not, your business isn’t female-friendly. Here again, its easy to overcompensate. Just make sure that anything being done isn’t discouraging males from seeking employment or working in your organisation. 

Tip #4: Consider not involving the son-in-law

The Japanese have an interesting concept called Mukoyōshi. A business family with no male heir and with an unwed daughter will search for a man with the ability to run the family business. The Mukoyōshi takes the family name of his wife to ensure the family legacy remains. Even large Japanese companies like Nintendo, Toyota and Sumitomo have extensively used this practice. As the saying goes, “You can’t choose your sons, but you can choose your sons-in-law.”

In India, there are examples where sons-in-law have been (seemingly) successful in the family business. For instance, Shikhar Malhotra is married to Roshni Nadar and has several executive and non-executive roles in HCL Group companies. Yet, getting a son-in-law involved in the family business can be risky. They’ll always want to prove their worth and their value to the company. And that they aren’t there just because they married the right person. That can lead to errors in judgement and ego-clashes. And they won’t have the same emotional attachment to the business which gives family businesses their special zing. And if there are sons who also want to be involved in the business, turf wars could erupt. Bottomline: avoid involving sons-in-law in the family business. Or to take it a step further, consider not involving any in-laws in the family business. 

Closing thoughts

When growing up, sons are often actively asked the question, “Would you like to take over the family business”. Daughters need to be asked that question equally. And given an equal opportunity as sons to be involved the Family Business. Various studies claim that women in management helps company performance. A BCG study claims that if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, the global GDP would rise by around 3 to 6%. India needs more women in business than it needs flashy weddings.


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