Historically, family businesses were owned by men, as wives and daughters were often explicitly prohibited from ownership and management of the business due to social norms. Decisions on which child would succeed the founder often defaulted to primogeniture, whereby the firstborn son would inherit management and ownership. As the M&A market matured, families increasingly sought to sell their businesses and would often use the proceeds of the sale to start a family office. Unfortunately, these gender biases continued with this evolution from family business to family office, and women were continued to be excluded from wealth transfer and management discussions. As a result, there is still a glaring lack of women in family offices.
Today there is a changing tide and a fading of patriarchal systems, such that we are seeing upward mobility of women in family offices. Despite the fact that many families now allow women to inherit wealth, many of these women stay “silent”. Barclays Private Bank research highlights that a gender gap still persists today, as 70% of women are not involved in family wealth decisions and are four times more likely than men not to be involved in family business decisions.