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:

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