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  • Writer's pictureTsitsi Mutendi

The Other Half of The Sky: Women In Family Business

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

As we may all know, women in family business is an in-depth conversation that is taking the forefront in many spheres of the family business space. How can women gain more support, what type of support do they need and why do they face these unique challenges that their male counterparts do not? In recognition of women’s month and my experience on being a woman in family business, I would like to share some tools that I have found helpful as I navigate this space. Of course there are many issues that I will unpack in other articles but for today in celebration of those who have paved the way I share my insights. Positioning: As a woman you may find yourself undervalued or under-minded because of your gender. Respect the mind frame or viewpoint of the people you are dealing with but tool yourself to adequately tackle the job in front of you. If that means more training or education or at times asserting yourself to show that you are knowledgeable, always keep a level head but be strategic. Many times as women we have had to deal with egos and sometimes rudeness in the workspace. Ensure you maintain your professionalism but do not compromise your opinion if you need to speak up and speak out. Understand the legalities of things: One of the weaknesses we sometimes have as women is not understanding our rights from a legal standpoint. Take time to understand these and how they work to serve you. Whether it’s the rights of your position and authority at work or the ownership rights you have in the business and equally, the rights you have as a family member. The more you know and understand the better equipped you are to do what’s best for your family business. In some cases you may need to consult with qualified practitioners and advisors, make sure you do. Know the value you bring to the table: There are times as women we tend to take a back seat and default to others in the room because we feel we are inadequate. 2020 has proved in many ways that every person has value that they can bring to the table. Identify your strengths and the ways in which you contribute. Don’t ever believe you do not bring value to the table, because you do! Create your own table: When all else fails, it’s ok to create your own table. Work with people who bring value to you and the interests of the business. Do not feel obliged to work with people who do not support you or work for the best interests of the business or your well being. In the end self care is key to your success and that of the business you are building and wealth you are creating. Use your natural inclination: As women most times we are multitaskers and we thrive in order and chaotic order. Our role has been to be home makers for the longest time. And any woman can attest juggling all the tasks of raising children and creating a habitable home does not come easily. Equally so we have the ability to lead and build companies using the same skills we use naturally. We nurture and we are intuitive. Don’t ever see this as a weakness but instead harness this strength for your the benefit of your business. Sharing from personal experience, before I was a mom I used to be a neatness fanatic and made order in all things. Having children became organised chaos for me. I am still very much inclined towards organisation, however, I remember one day my daughter was very sick and we took her to the emergency room and she started throwing up all over me. My response was to comfort her and clean up after she had finished. Although I was covered in puke and probably looked horrific, my natural inclination was to care for my child and not focus on discomfort. This mindset has seen me through difficult situations where I’ve had to be strong for my staff during COVID and ultimately find solutions that help move the business, the community it serves and my family through this difficult period. Culture is critical but so is survival: As women we sometimes find ourselves bound by culture and tradition, which are slower to adapt than laws and legislation, and even the world around us. And we find our roles becoming conflicted by this. One thing to keep on top of your mind is that, change is ongoing. Cultures and traditions are influenced by the world and the changes happening. Sometimes this change may be slow and your role may be compromised. Realise that your role may be that of catalyst for the culture in your family and business to change and give women visibility, opportunity and empowerment. It’s delicate ground but you have the strength to be the voice and necessary tools to navigate it. Just show up and do the work necessary to protect the interests of the business and the family. Inch by inch your presence and perseverance will open the door to others who deserve to sit at the table.

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