Empowering Women in Family Businesses: Indian School of Business (ISB) Hosts A Successful Roundtable
Prominent family business leaders and experts Pratima Kirloskar, Vanitha Datla, Srividya Reddy, Rishabh Shroff, Aarti Gupta, Priti Rathi Gupta, Sujatha Cecilia, Kavil Ramachandran, Sougata Ray, and Nupur Pavan Bang discussed diverse topics, ranging from multigenerational experiences of women, factors enabling or hindering the active involvement of women in family businesses, gender-inclusive family dynamics, and effective women leadership in the family business context. The roundtable also provided a collaborative platform for attendees to engage with industry leaders, fostering a vibrant exchange of ideas and experiences.
Key highlights that emerged from the roundtable were the following:
Gender equity is not a choice. It is inevitable: The movement to achieve gender equity has begun. Progress is already happening in different spheres, globally as well as in India. To expedite this progress, strategic interventions in education, workplace policies, and cultural narratives must be implemented with precision, urgency, and in a way that is less painful for individuals, families, and businesses.
Gender-inclusive families are a prerequisite for gender equity: Family, spouse, and social networks play a pivotal role in fostering the active involvement of women in family businesses. The families need to evolve to provide an environment where they can navigate the dual roles of being a homemaker as well as a business leader for both genders. Diversity and inclusivity in business must be preceded by the same at the family level.
Gender-neutral sharing of responsibilities: Traditionally, the burden of the multiplicity of roles has fallen on women, even though most roles are gender-agnostic. Efficient and equitable family functioning necessitates the harmonious, collaborative, and collective sharing of responsibilities, encompassing caregiving, risk-taking, and providing for the family. Balancing these roles ensures a more inclusive and resilient family dynamic, fostering mutual support and shared accountability. However, the right kind of institutional and infrastructural ecosystem is required to provide support for all to play a multiplicity of roles. Only family support will not be adequate.
Role models and champions are important: Women who have triumphed against adversity serve as role models and inspirational guides, while male advocates actively championing equity contribute to dismantling entrenched gender norms. Their combined influence fosters a more inclusive environment conducive to the advancement of women in diverse spheres. Many of the younger generation members are taking the lead in promoting gender neutrality and becoming the catalysts for change in their families.
Equal opportunities in skilling and mentorship: Ensure equitable access for both genders to skill development and mentorship, facilitating the acquisition of capabilities essential for success. While offering equal opportunities, respect individual choices by allowing individuals to pursue their desired paths. Having strong family governance mechanisms enhances the effectiveness of the pursuit of gender equity.
“In the realm of family enterprise, empowering women isn't just a commitment to equity; it's an investment to foster resilience and ensure the sustainability of the business and family legacy. It has to be a team effort; women must demand change, and men must champion it. May the spirit of collaboration and complementarity triumph", expressed, Sougata Ray, Professor and Executive Director, Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business.