Breaking through the periphery: Growing role of women as leaders in Indian family businesses

Prashant Gupta, Sheenu Jain


Purpose: The purpose of the research was to explore whether the role of women was growing as leaders in Indian Family businesses. It attempted to find reasons for such change and to examine whether the change was benefitting family businesses. It also tried to find out whether there were any preferred sectors for women and whether gender-specific roles were changing.

Methodology: Family-owned business companies were selected from the top 200 listed companies on BSE based on market capitalization to ensure availability of correct and reliable data. The analysis was carried out for women leaders in 62 family-owned business houses, where women were in the top management teams. Besides, cases of five women leaders were chosen for study based on parameters such as a minimum of 2 years in top management positions, sectors of the firms, educational qualifications of the businesswomen, levels of generation, contributions of the women leaders, career progression, and the grooming process adopted. The study was a qualitative analysis of exploratory nature.

Findings: The study indicated rising trend of women holding senior positions. The analysis was performed to find out reasons for such a rising trend, the contribution of women, and whether it led to growth and better performance of such family businesses. Some of the factors identified in the study, which helped in increasing the role of women, were women getting higher education, being dissatisfied with their outside jobs, the shrinking size of families, and circumstances forcing women to join family businesses to help families in times of crises. The study also showed that women were contributing to all types of sectors in diverse functional roles. Therefore, there was nothing like the preferred sectors for women.

Implications: The finding that women in top management positions were contributing a lot in family businesses validates that the change in the statutory regulations to have gender-based quotas for women on corporate boards was a step in the right direction. The study may also prompt family businesses to have a greater proportion of women in top management teams.

Originality: The information was compiled from websites of the companies, Bloomberg Business profiles, Bombay Stock Exchange, and other published literature. Companies’ annual reports were also used for reference purpose and cross verification. The study is both novel and original.


Family business, gender diversity, gender quota, succession planning, women business leaders.

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