To ﬁll this gap and to extend our knowledge on women in family ﬁrms, this paper
investigates the effects of women in managerial positions, as members of the board of
directors and as owners of the ﬁrm on ﬁrm-level proﬁtability. A special focus is on family-
owned enterprises. The following research question addresses the issue of female
governance on ﬁrm performance:
RQ1. Is the effect of female governance different in family ﬁrms compared with that in
This study relates to recent researchon female leadership in family ﬁrms. A study by Amore
et al. (2014) appears to resemble our study the most. They have adopted a similar
approach to ours, but it differsin important aspects: they study only family ﬁrms, theydo not
compare family with non-family ﬁrms and they do not consider female ownership. Their
hypotheses are grounded in a theoretical framework that posits that female directors and
leaders function better in cooperation with the same sex. By contrast, we also stress
discrimination as an important explanation.
The paper makes empirical and practical contributions to the literature on family ﬁrms and
to the corporate governance literature in general. Our main empirical contribution is our
investigation of the effect of female corporate leaders on ﬁrm performance and our
comparison of this effect between family and non-family ﬁrms. The empirical analysis is
based on survey data with ﬁrms in all size classes and at least ﬁve employees, i.e. listed
and non-listed ﬁrms are included. Firm owners were asked for the names of the ﬁve largest
owners and for their respective cash ﬂows and voting rights; they were also asked whether
they considered themselves to be a family ﬁrm or a non-family ﬁrm. In total, 1,041 ﬁrms
completed the survey, which corresponds to a response rate of 42 per cent. The survey
data are matched with ﬁrm-level data from Bureau van Dijk’s Amadeus database and with
information on female leaders from ofﬁcialsources.
The regression analysis shows that female executives generate higher proﬁtability in family
ﬁrms than they do in non-family ﬁrms. Our results indicate that promoting women to leading
positions is good for ﬁrms. That is, the results suggest that family ﬁrms can improve their
proﬁtability by supporting and mentoring female family members to take leading positions.
The creation of regional and national networks is onepolicy suggestion that not only aims to
further support female leaders but also couldenhance ﬁrm performance.
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The next section presents the
theoretical framework, an overview of the previous literature and the tested hypotheses.
The third section discusses the methodology and the data and variables. Section 4
presents the relevant descriptive statistics and the regression analysis. The ﬁnal
section summarizes and concludes the paper.
2. Female leadership –literature review and research questions
Research on gender issues is relatively new within the corporate governance/ﬁnance
literature (Huang and Kisgen, 2013). No coherent theoretical framework captures all
aspects of gender and the ways in which it can affect ﬁrm performance. Instead, one must
rely on a mixture of theories about behavioral differences related to gender, discrimination
and the principal–agent relationship as well as to the proposed advantages of gender
diversity on the board. After reviewing this literature, we claim that the difference between
family ﬁrms and non-family ﬁrms must be acknowledged when considering the effects of
gender on ﬁrm performance.
2.1 Gender differences in top management
Jensen and Meckling (1976) provide a corporate governance framework based on a
principal–agent view. The central message in their article is that corporate leaders (those
PAGE 186 jCORPORATE GOVERNANCE jVOL. 18 NO. 2, 2018