Women throughout the world are increasingly taking leadership roles in industries and family businesses, but the “glass ceiling” remains a stubborn barrier in North America, according to the 2019 STEP Global Family Business Survey.

According to the survey’s findings, 18% of family business leaders are female. Family businesses from Europe and Central Asia had the highest percentage of female CEOs (43%), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (25%) and Asia and the Pacific (20%).

The regions with the lowest percentage of female CEOS are North America with 7% and the Middle East and Africa with 5%.

Among females in leadership positions, 2% are from the Silent Generation, 39% are baby boomers, 35% belong to Generation X and 24% are millennials, the survey said.

The survey included more than 1,800 family business leaders from 33 countries in five regions: Europe and Central Asia; North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Asia and the Pacific; and the Middle East and Africa. 

Female family business leaders plan to retire at a younger age than their male counterparts, the survey found. It also found that decisions about succession take place earlier if the next family business leader is female. The data also showed that when the next CEO is a woman, the former CEO retires earlier than when it is a man.

The survey also showed that family businesses with female CEOs have less autocratic leadership than male CEOs and give more autonomy to individuals and teams within the company. Such autonomy is stronger in Europe and Central Asia, the report said.

These were among the other survey findings:

• More than half of family business leaders across the globe do not have a retirement plan, even though they indicate that they plan to retire between the age of 61 and 70.

• As for whether the next CEO will be a family member, 37% said there is a high likelihood, 43% said the likelihood is medium and 20% said it’s unlikely that the next CEO will come from the owning family.

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