Indian Family businesses have traditionally been dominated by men, and although this is beginning to change, progress is slow and tentative, with gender issues continuing to cause significant tensions and inefficiencies in India’s family-owned companies. Globalization, liberalization, changing views about gender roles and increasing emphasis on education have clearly helped to raise the status of women in family businesses. For instance, Roshini Nadar- daughter of HCL Technologies founder Shiv Nadar – was appointed chief executive officer of the group in 2009. Similarly Ashni Biyani, daughter of Future Group (formerly Pantaloons) chief Ashok Biyani, joined the family business in 2007.

Inspiring as these examples maybe, they remain exceptional; they do not represent what is happening generally across the broad sweep of India’s family business sector where women continue to struggle to gain a foothold. The paradox deepens when one considers the contribution women can (and do) make to the family values-based cohesiveness that helps create a competitive advantage for family businesses in India. Women are the custodians of family culture in India- the natural order of propriety, family values and ethics- that governs how individual and social life is structured and organized.

The treatment of sons and daughters provide an example of how the sexes continue to be treated differently. Entry into the family business, for instance, because women are still not usually part of the mental picture their father has painted of the business, they typically have to ask to join it. Women are less likely to view entering the family business as an entitlement.

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