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In the mother’s shadow: exploring power dynamics in family business succession

Filippo Ferrari (Department of Economics, Management and Statistics, Bologna University, Bologna, Italy)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 14 March 2019

Issue publication date: 11 April 2019




This paper aims to investigate and explain the power dynamics involving the mother (as the founder) and the daughter (as the successor) during the business transmission process.


This qualitative research was conducted on a sample of Italian family SMEs. The adopted approach is consistent with the narration paradigm, where the biographical features of the participant are investigated to highlight the culture, value systems and other background features.


This research suggests that if the founder is her mother, the daughter faces further challenges. Findings suggest that during business transmission, it is also important to consider the cultural and contextual factors, such as gender biases, both in the family and in the workplace. This paper seems to suggest that power is important in itself, regardless of the gender of those who exercise it.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should investigate, quantitatively, the same issues considered in this research, to assess the reliability and validity of the evidence discussed here.

Practical implications

This paper suggests how to overcome dysfunctional dynamics in mother–daughter business transmission.

Social implications

Family firms are the most widespread type of firm in the world; as a consequence, systematic failures in business transmission represent a prominent socio-economical problem for policymakers and institutions.


This research shows that in family business, power is not dynamic and does not shift among family members, as suggested by previous research. Even once the mother retires, a stable power hierarchy remains within the family firm.



Ferrari, F. (2019), "In the mother’s shadow: exploring power dynamics in family business succession", Gender in Management, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 121-139.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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