Family firms, women, and innovation

  • Mariasole Bannò
  • Graziano Coller
  • Giorgia M. D’Allura
Keywords: gender; invisible women; family business; innovation


Frame of the research: We aim to inform family business literature and family business managers on the effect to include women as managers by providing empirical evidence on their impact on innovation.

Purpose of the paper: The paper investigates the impact of female directors on innovation in Family Businesses (FBs). We assume that the presence of women, due to recent generations with the presence of daughters or due to marriages involving third parties, could be more common than in non-FBs.

Methodology: We tested our hypotheses on a sample of 755 Italian FBs through a count data model.

Findings: Our findings show how and when the invisible women became visible and their effect on innovation performance. Prejudice against women in FBs is detrimental to innovation; however, both the presence of female family members in control positions and the presence of a critical mass helps to mitigate the effect of prejudice on innovation.

Research limits: The sample is limited to Italian firms only. The social dynamics and the role of women in the entrepreneurial arena are strongly influenced by the institutional system in which the firm operates.

Practical implications: Our findings will be relevant to family business owners and managers with regard to their innovation strategy. A greater understanding of the relationship between female directors and innovation may contribute to increasing the number of women in these important roles.

Originality of the paper: We extend our understanding of the effects on innovation of the involvement of female family members on the board of directors. We discuss the invisibility of female family members. We enhance our growing knowledge on female directors in family businesses by studying women’s roles as president or vice president, in relation to innovation.


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