With the push for more women to step into leadership roles, a unique subset of leaders is emerging in family business: daughters that are taking charge. After mentoring a group of these women through a local center at University of Cincinnati’s business school, Social Psychologist Amy Katz noticed something fascinating.
“They are not like other young women that I’ve worked with. They talk about different issues. Their parents are their bosses. They understand money matters and taxes. It’s a different kind of career evolution,” said Amy.
To help these women, Amy and her business partner Todd Uterstaedt created Daughters in Charge—a community with coaching, podcasts, seminars and resources to address both personal and business issues that arise when working with family.
“Often family businesses are insular and it’s hard for women to find other women who understand their specific situations.”
To connect this community, Amy and Todd built Daughters in Charge almost exclusively online to reach daughters locally, nationally and even internationally. Through their Ask Amy blog, Amy addresses the challenges for women trying to establish themselves professionally while working alongside siblings, parents and relatives.
“Some daughters are absolutely welcomed and have taken on roles magnificently working with their fathers or mothers or non-family execs. And others struggle quite a bit. They struggle because they seek credibility and they don’t get it. They struggle because their siblings just remember them as a kid sister… Each family is a universe and the issues are as complex as families are.”
As both a psychologist and business consultant, Amy understands how family systems work and is helping women define their roles within business. Sometimes that means coaching women to be more confident in their strengths, and other times it’s helping them realize their passions lie outside the family business.
“I had written a blog about deciding to leave and I got a call from this woman. She said, ‘I just want you to know I have been looking at your site and reading your stuff and I’ve decided to leave my family’s business and I feel really great about it. I don’t know what’s next and I know that it is okay for me to seek something else.’”
By talking through tough decisions and family matters, Amy is empowering other women to have confidence and take responsibility for their professional lives—a challenge she too faced.
“I used to work for GE aircraft engines and I was a woman in a very nontraditional role. There were men all around that doubted me and I struggled with my own credibility. My experience as a younger woman trying to gain authority has stayed with me, and I watch as they struggle with that. I appreciate that struggle and that’s part of the gratification that I can help them think through how they might handle themselves.”
As these women individually run their family businesses alongside raising their own children, they play a pivotal role in the bigger picture of redefining how we think about work.
“These women are pioneers. If they don’t see themselves as special but rather as introducing different ways of working for them and other women, then they can be a source of introducing policies and practices that might not otherwise have crossed the screens of their fathers.”
With a daughter of her own, Amy recognizes the struggles of parenting and balancing a full-time work schedule with being a mother. For Amy, building her own business allowed her the schedule she wanted to fit her lifestyle.
“I have enormous flexibility. I can be up on my computer at 2 am and don’t necessarily have to get up at 6 am and put on heels the way I did in other settings.”
She tries to lead by example to show other women how they too can figure out a way to balance their professional aspirations and personal lives. With her own daughter now in her twenties and deciding on a career path, Amy’s advice to her is, well, like any loving mother.
“Allow yourself to be surprised by what you end up doing. Don’t follow a predetermined script or be afraid of risks because work lives and interests shift…Oh, and listen to your mother!” she laughed.
As for other women stepping in to lead a family business, Amy says:
“Understand that you will be a change agent by virtue of your gender, your age, your history, the changes in the marketplace and the environment around you. It can be a wonderful opportunity and it can be quite challenging. Be prepared for learning how to adapt.”
Thanks Amy, for inspiring women to not be afraid to explore their strengths, stand up for what they want and go confidently in whatever direction they choose.