A suitable boy? Gendered roles and hierarchies in family business succession

Given the importance of family business to economies and societies, the persistence of gender inequality in succession requires further exploration. While gender theorizing has penetrated mainstream management theorizing, its application in family business literature remains underdeveloped: extant research conceptualizes gender as an objective property of individuals, synonymous with biological sex. In this paper, we adopt a social constructionist approach and study four cases of family business succession, revealing significant insights into how gender structures successor selection. We show how gender dynamics are more complicated than a binary view focused on gender category would imply. Specifically, we identify how family members, through discourses and interactions, socially construct the successor role, and how this gendered construction of the role frames a hierarchy of potential successors. This hierarchy is based on the combination of gender category and the extent to which an individual’s traits and characteristics are perceived to align with that role.


Janice Byrne, Salma Fattoum and Sarah Thébaud. Forthcoming. A suitable boy? Gendered roles and hierarchies in family business succession, European Management Review, first published 5 June 2018: https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/emre.12298

2018-06-24T12:31:55+00:00 By |

About the Author:

Janice Byrne
I am Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour at Iéseg School of Management, France and have been working there since August 2012. I previously worked at EMLYON Business where I completed my PhD in Management in 2012.  I am very proud to have been a member of the second ‘cohort’ of EMLYON’s PhD programme.  Early in 2017, I was lucky enough to be a visiting scholar at University of California, Santa Barbara: immersing myself in their award winning (gender studies!) sociology department was a real eye-opening experience for me!

Eccentric in nature, eclectic in research, my work generally combines at least two of the following three themes: gender, entrepreneurship and education.  My current work addresses gender and entrepreneurial role models, business growth intentions, training, work-life balance and family business succession.  I’ve published in numerous international journals including Academy of Management Learning and Education, Small Business Economics, Organizational Dynamics, Management International, Revue de l’Entrepreneuriat, Industry and Higher Education as well as popular media outlets such as the Harvard Business Review and The Huffington Post.  I am a member of the editorial board of Academy of Management Learning & Education and regularly review for various leading entrepreneurship journals. I am an active member of the ISBE’s Gender and Enterprise Network (GEN).  I am also a big fan of the DIANA project, and won Best Paper Award in 2015.

When it comes to combining research and practice, I try to be a do-er as well as a thinker (and a writer!): I am Academic Director of Led By HER, an entrepreneurship training program for women who have experienced violence or extreme personal hardship.  This initiative is the perfect symbiosis of my three passions: education, entrepreneurship and real girl power!

Wife to one very determined entrepreneur and mother to two enterprising young boys (!), I am very thankful for my strong and supportive family.  While I live in France, I am Irish to the core and frequently return to my fair city, Dublin.  There is nothing quite like the green, green grass of home!

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