The Time for Women Leaders Has Come

Larry Grypp

Larry Grypp

It’s one of the oldest family businesses in the world. More than 600 years old. Led by only men all that time. But times have changed.

When 26th-generation owner Marchese Antinori came to realize that after three children — all girls — he was unlikely to have a son to take over the family’s storied winemaking business, he had a decision to make. Should he buck the deeply ingrained culture and tradition to raise his girls to run one of the most heralded Tuscan wineries in the world? Or should he sell the business or bring in an outside industry executive?

Antinori bucked tradition, and his rationale was brilliant. Wine — its production, its marketing, its place in culture and cuisine — is as much emotional as it is rational. Empowered by their father’s daring decision making, the three Antinori sisters have brought a new mindset and perspective to the business that is paying off attractively as it expands its reach to new markets around the world.

Women bring unique leadership talents and qualities.  Now is the time to reject the notion of institutional bias in whether women are disadvantaged or passed over in handing a business down to the next generation.  And there is more work than we realize if we truly want to create as much of an opportunity for the women in the family as the men. Some things to consider:

  1. Do you “talk business” with your daughters as much as with your sons? These kitchen table chats do a lot to shorten the learning curve and give a young person early insights into what it takes.
  2. Have you encouraged your daughters to consider a leading role in the business? We all understand the importance of having that parental nudge or blessing, and even more so when a daughter might need some signal that you might want her in that role, rather than her keeping those ambitions to herself or raising them too late. 
  3. Are you helping your daughter build the same kind of business support network that might come more easily to one of your sons?

Standing up for and standing behind our daughters as future owners and leaders of a family business starts with being fair, but must be followed with intention and action. That time has arrived.