10 Women's experiences in the farming sector in Scotland relative to the experiences of women in family businesses in other sectors
Like women in farming and the agriculture sector, women had varied career paths into their businesses.
Women's daily lives were very varied and they also juggled home life with their businesses.
In general there were no issues for women in other business associations. Many held senior positions in their various business organisations. This is completely different to farm organisations.
One woman spoke about the gender imbalance in waste management organisations. She noted that the number of women was increasing and the organisations are careful to have women on committees as they are under pressure to address gender inequality. There was less evidence of this in agricultural organisations.
There were no issues accessing business related training. This is very different to the situation for farm women.
Women combine childcare with their work. This sometimes involves bringing their children to their work environment. Unlike farming, there are likely to be less potential safety issues arise as a result of this practice.
Inheritance was not a barrier to women's entry into businesses. This is different to farming.
Like women in agriculture, women in family businesses had varied paths into their business. Some women started their own business on their own and some with their husbands, some married into the business and some inherited it from their fathers. In order to consider their experiences alongside those of farm women, the general structure of the report will be followed in this section.
10.1 Literature on Women in Family Businesses
While there is a considerable amount of research on women in farm family businesses, and on women in family businesses that are not agricultural, there is very little comparative research between the two. Women in family businesses face many of the same challenges as women in agriculture; succession practices follow primogeniture and the business is typically passed from father to son. Women at the head of a family business are not seen as the norm (Barrett, 2010). Women are usually seen as primarily responsible for the family part of the business and their work is often under-reported and undervalued (Sharma, 2004). Like women in agriculture, their slightly detached role means that they can often make very astute observations about the business and provide enormous emotional capital in times of difficulty (Sharma, 2004: 14).The literature demonstrations that often women's training needs are overlooked (Cadieux et al., 2010). However, this literature was not borne out by our study. It is possible that the small number of women interviewed is not representative. More likely is that most of the sample were new entrants to the business, so had developed the business themselves. Those who did inherit, did so as an only daughter, or inherited alongside brothers. An interesting question to consider will be the separation of the home from the business. The farm home is typically on site, and this raises more complex issues about separation of business and household, and also issues relating to work place safety.
10.2 Daily Lives
As with women in farming, women in businesses also had varied daily lives depending on their stage of career, type of business and family responsibilities. However, whereas women in farming often combine work on the farm with other forms of employment, women in business tend to work exclusively in that role.
In general, women in business are busy juggling careers and childcare.
The woman below outlines how balancing childcare and work is the most difficult part of being in business:
I think the main thing for me as a woman is the balance of home life, I find that I'm actually...I don't have a partner so I am...chief in the household, and I find that when I'm out working I feel guilty for being at work. When I'm at home I think it doesn't ever stop because you're still taking phone calls or fielding emails and I think that that balance which I think for a man it naturally goes to a woman. And it's not that I want to share that because in order for me to feel like a good mother I want to have that... I think that men would just say oh I'm going to open up a business and wouldn't give a second thought to how you're going to manage your childcare, how are you going to manage your time? Whereas a woman has to...when I'm planning my diary for the week I'm planning who's going to take my daughter to school, who's going to pick her up, and the childcare around that. If I didn't have my parents living locally I would not be in any way, shape or form able to...commit myself the way I do. # Women in family business focus group #1
Similar to women on farms, their labour is a significant contribution to the survival of the family business. This woman works in the family hotel:
I get up, I do breakfasts, I do lunches, I don't do the bar, I do it occasionally if there's no bar staff on, and I will prep. I have chefs and I do the lunches, I do the three days he's off. He would have...he would have ten staff, I said I would work...I do the breakfasts, I actually cook it, I serve it, I book people out, and I do have a cleaner, she does the rooms yeah. I do lunches, I do a coffee morning from ten o'clock to twelve o'clock, I do coffees, bacon rolls, sausage rolls, scones, and whatever. That finishes at twelve and then I start lunches. I do lunches six days a week. I actually told him [her son who will inherit the business] he'd need three or four people to cover me. He would need three or four to cover me. # Woman in family business # 4 woman who started business with her husband
New entrants to agriculture and business seem to have more equal childcare arrangements than established couples:
It depends whether we're in school time or holidays. In the holidays my husband and I take it in turns so he'll do 2 days at the shop, I'll do 2 days at the shop, and then weekends we'll take it in turns. ...occasionally we have childcare but not very often...Over the years the kids have spent a lot of time here. # Woman in family business # 1 woman new entrant business.
What is interesting is that while women on farms juggle their off-farm work around the needs of the farm, women in business appear to manager their business around childcare needs:
So I normally get up about half past 6 in the morning and I get the children up. They like to be up early and I get them fixed with breakfast and make their packed lunches, and help them get dressed if they need help, and do their hair and all that kind of jazz. And then I might take work home if I need to ...and on Tuesday I try and leave a little bit earlier because one of my daughter's has got a gymnastics club that I like to take her to. And on a Friday I normally always leave at 2 o'clock because one of my other children has swimming. So... then to make up for the lost time in the office again I'll take stuff home. Do you know what I'm going to do it on my own. I'm going to have a blimmin'...you know...make my own rules. ...because it was hard working and having babies and one of the things about this place was that I wanted to be able to leave early when I needed to and not justify being off to my bosses. I would always make it up, my clients wouldn't suffer and my fee income wouldn't suffer. I didn't really want to be accountable ...so that was one of the things. # Woman in family business # 5
I meet them, they get off the bus, and I meet them at the gym because I've just returned more to full-time. I took seven years out when my children were growing up so I've been back in the business now full-time now for probably two years but I'm saying its full-time it's still quite flexible. If I need time off during schools holidays, things like that, but it works itself out. We don't have hang ups about who works the hardest or who works...you know... [Laughter] # Woman in family business # 6
Women in business also have to juggle childcare and home duties with their business careers. They are just as busy as women in agriculture and also battle to balance their home and work life. Interestingly, while women arrange their work life to meet the needs of their farm and take holidays at particularly busy periods, women in business value the flexibility of their employment, and juggle the needs of the business around childcare.
10.3 Career Paths
Women in family businesses had various routes of entry into their business. Quite a few women had started their business on their own, and this was different to the women in agriculture sample, where only one woman had taken on a croft on her own. In general, women also tended to have trained for the business they subsequently were part of; law firm, book shop, food business, children's nurseries, family hotels. Where women married into the business, they had not trained for the business and learned on the job or subsequently trained themselves.
I went to study English and Art History in a combined Honours course. ..I was aiming to get into the book slash art world and in the very first job I ended up working as an assistant for a literary agent for a couple of years. And from there I went into publishing. # Woman in family business # 1 woman new entrant business.
I went to church and somebody in the church said oh do you do catering? I said yes and then the rest is...I mean I just started. It was little bits and little bits and it was...a lot of farmers actually involved, there was a lot of farmers around and I'll never forget there was this lovely lady, who used to get me to do food for her and she said you know it's so nice to see a mother working from home but still looking after her children. # Woman in family business #2 woman whose two sons have taken over the business
I went to university and did accountancy, and I began work with a firm of chartered accounts [company name] in Inverness, and then in Aberdeen. And then I met my husband but he also worked for the same company and the company didn't want people working for them that had relationships.
Is he an accountant too?
Yes! So...we and another close colleague of ours there, and we left with our clients and set up by ourselves. # Women in family business focus group #2
Yes so meantime...when we were in London together he was a professional photographer freelance, we knew in Scotland that was a bit tough to keep going so he retrained as a chef and it was the year before we opened here and so while I didn't want to kind of force his hand in a sense to limit him to this it seemed like a sensible thing because I was never going to want to do that because that's not the way my brain works at all ...I love good food but I'm not a cook and I just literally could not do that. Which is ideal because he couldn't do the books and I couldn't do the food and that's the way it has to work...So we did it completely jointly and yeah so a complete career change for both of us with the small children element so it was interesting! # Woman in family business # 1 woman new entrant business. Her business is with her husband
The women who had started their own businesses tended to have the primary occupation, and their husbands were supportive of their business ventures. In the interview below, the husband and wife were interviewed together. This woman's husband is an accountant and he did the accounts for her business. He also provided assistance as needed:
I started...because a lot of farms had diversified and the wives had made all these beautiful cottages and were letting them out. And the guests needed food, so I started making food and my husband was going all over the Borders delivering food...but it just go....too unmanageable as it were, trying to do that, and also do functions...I was out doing a wedding and poor Rob had to go and deliver food somewhere. # Woman in family business #2 woman whose two sons have taken over the business
There were also examples of women who started businesses with their husbands:
[I] did teaching for a few years and then got married, and then my husband was in business already but the shop that we've got now came up for sale and we were very young, and when you're young you really don't know all the pitfalls. Oh yeah we would have a go and we'd manage that! A furniture shop so we were just going to do the same thing. But when we got the keys and went in it was totally empty. We thought we'll never fill it anyway...off we went, sleeves up and we did. And we've been there now...this is thirty-four years. # Women in family business focus group #2
Some women had inherited the family business. In all but one case the business was inherited from the father. In the case that was the exception, the woman's daughter-in-law will take over her fashion boutique.
I have two businesses, as you know a print shop which has been my family's print shop and my dad...six years ago wanted to retire from the shop and so I agreed to start running the business. ...my own business that I started was a children's nursery which I've had since 2010. # Women in family business focus group #1
Similar to women in agriculture, women in businesses have varied paths into the business. Some inherit the business(es), some start their own business(es), some 'marry-in'. Like agricultural new entrants, new entrants to business are very innovative and imaginative. For those who start their own business, there are not the same obstacles that new entrants to agriculture face. Primarily this is linked to needing access to land to farm. Women in other businesses do not face this barrier. Women who 'marry in' to the business are just as active in the business as women who marry into farms.
10.4 Business Organisations and Training
It is in terms of business organisation representation that the biggest difference emerges between women in family farming businesses and those in family businesses out with the farming sector. There are also differences in terms of training. Women in family business are much better represented in business organisations than women in farming. Not only is it the case that women are better represented, they also hold positions of authority, and in some cases started organisations;
The [organisation name]...they're fantastic actually they're really good. I've been on the council for oh about five or six years and I'm current president for two years. So I'm really involved at the moment. I am involved with...I've got a non-exec position with a trading body. So I sit on their board but that's a couple of board meetings a year and I'm involved in various other things like prize judging and that kind of thing within the book trade...all of which does take up time...but no and I've toyed with when we first opened the Federation of Small Businesses was quite proactive and because a lot of the benefits they were offering were already achievable for me through [company name removed]...it didn't seem necessary, I have to say I think possibly when I step down from being president I might revisit the Federation of Small Businesses just to engage with it, so I think I'm probably missing a trick there a little bit, just in terms of networking. # Woman in family business # 1 Woman new entrant business. Her business is with her husband
Involved with The Federation of Small Businesses and I was involved in setting up [name of Food Network] # Woman in family business #2 Woman whose two sons have taken over the business
With the nursery I am a member of [name of Private Nurseries Association], where nursery owners meet to discuss issues, mainly moaning, and I don't particularly enjoy going to these meetings. # Women in family business focus group #1
In general, women did not feel excluded from belonging to business organisations. This is entirely different to the situation of women in agriculture. Most women were in businesses that were gender neutral, such as running a bookshop, and some were in stereotypical female industries, such as in catering or childcare. One woman inherited a waste management business with her sister and brother from her father. She was the only interviewee from this cohort who mentioned gender and business organisations:
Okay and are...what's the gender split of those ...boards and associations would you say?
You'd still be looking at eighty per cent male. Eight plus. You know there's...although there's more and more women coming into waste management now. When I first started I was one of the very, very few, one of the very few. I would go to the Environmental Services meeting, there would be no other women there - never! And...after I had my career break with the kids I've been going back to these and you'll tend to find say there are twenty people there, you would say at least six to eight people of them are females. So there's a lot more coming into...and they've come in, they've been away to university, and they've done their degrees and whatever.
Do you think there are any particular barriers that women face in this occupation, or perceptions of women?
Not so much nowadays, you can't really have that nowadays can you? And in terms of the...Road Haulage Association and all those various organisations I mean they will have committee structures, and well they will make sure that they've got (women) - if you look at the board they will, there will be...it might not be as much as an eight - twenty per cent-split there but...yes they...well they've got to keep themselves right don't they? # Woman in family business # 6
It is interesting that this woman sees the organisation trying to change practice in order to be seen to address gender inequality. This was not the case in farming organisations. No issues arose around accessing and availing of training, not even for the woman above who worked in waste management:
Training is one thing that we like to keep on top of ...so if there are courses that I think are quite beneficial at the minute its more into like digital and social media things that we're doing courses on. # Woman in family business # 6
Well when I'm...I mean I'm a member of the Law Society of Scotland. They oversee us and they...audit us and all the rest of it. I don't always go to all of them it just depends on what's happening. # Woman in family business # 5
Regardless of whether women had married into the business, inherited the business, or started it herself, there were no issues mentioned during the study availing of Continuing Professional Development ( CPD). This is different to the experiences of women in farming.
The most significant differences between women in farming businesses and women in other family businesses arise in relation to representation in business organisations and accessing CPD. While women in farming are very under-represented, this was not the case here, and many positions of authority are occupied by women. In the one male-dominated sector reported, the woman interviewed noted that it was changing and had to because of the current equality environment. All women availed of CPD and no barriers were raised to their participation. Women in farming however felt that CPD is aimed at men and find it a daunting environment.
10.5 Role Models
An issue that women in family businesses discussed, was the importance of mentors and role models. These were quoted as an influential source of support for them, especially in the early days of setting up their businesses.
So people tend to be very willing to share experiences and give guidance so I had two fantastic mentors. One of whom was an old friend from publishing and one of whom she introduced me to the other guy and they're both...were just incredibly generous with their time. # Woman in family business # 1 woman new entrant business. Her business with husband
I mean the lady who taught...who was there was a great influence in my catering career. I learnt a lot from her and I was able to use it and she was a mentor right...Auntie was there! And I met another girl there as well and we are lifelong friends now and she gave up catering but she's still...she knows all about it still and she helps me just by talking to her you know? She helps me so it's nice, but yes Auntie was a great influence in my life yeah. # Woman in family business #2 woman whose two sons have taken over the business
Mentoring was a great source of support for these women and also gave them access to considerable expertise. Women also gave examples of how they are mentoring younger women in their own businesses:
But it's all about choice I think...I mean my business partner is going to be thirty in May and she said to me that she wants to have children and I'm determined that I'll support her because I'm not going to be one of these people who makes snidey comments, or makes it difficult for her, or keeps her short of money, or any of that jazz. # Woman in family business # 5
Now can I ask is thirty very young to be a partner?
Quite young yeah but why not. Sue was here as a trainee, so she worked up from trainee, to associate, to partner. Okay. Yeah and that's how change will happen, if you mentor somebody like her and support her.
We've now got another girl who is due to start her traineeship in May I think…and I'm hoping to do the same with her as what happened before, because my partner was my trainee. And I gave her lots and lots of work, lots and lots of experience and then we offered her a full-time job as an assistant. Again she worked really hard, we offered her a full-time job as an associate, and then I offered her a partnership. # Woman in family business # 5
Women in farming businesses did not speak about having access to mentors in the same way women in other family businesses did. Some women on farms said they would like to have someone to teach them, preferably not a family member, but no such provision is readily available. It seems there is an opportunity to consider developing this type of initiative for women in farming. It is also interesting to note that women in family businesses are also mentoring and being role models for more junior women. Again there is scope for exceptional women in agriculture to take on mentoring and role model positions.
10.6 Safety and the Workplace
The women in family businesses outside of farming did not have dangerous workplaces. What is of interest is that these women also brought their children to work in unexpected circumstances or as a means of juggling childcare:
They have (been in the workplace), more than they would have liked! [Laughter] ...and you know always more than we intended and it sounds idyllic you know, growing up in a bookshop but trust me they don't believe that! ...it's not ideal. # Woman in family business # 1 woman new entrant business. Her business with husband
There was one hilarious moment um...we went...we had a pancake supper at our church and the local radio station had just opened. They asked if they could interview me about making pancakes and I said yeah, so they said you do have to bring the mix and everything, you have to do it in the studio and at 6 o'clock...my husband was away on business, at 6 o'clock in the morning I had to take these 2 little boys with me and they were so good, and then all of a sudden this little voice said "They're delicious mummy!" [Laughter] And this came across the radio [laughter] oh it was lovely! # Woman in family business #2 woman whose two sons have taken over the business
But last week, was it last week there was a snow day and the school was shut unexpectedly... So I had a meeting that morning with 14 members of staff who were all going to be sitting there waiting so I'm like I'm sorry you've got to come to work with me and sit in the corner with an iPad! That's just life! And you've got to understand how your holidays get paid for. # Women in family business focus group #2
Women juggle work commitments and childcare. Children in family businesses work in the business and they often have to be at the business while their mothers work. In some respects, women in farming are not doing anything different to women in other family businesses. The difference is that the implications of having children in the farm workplace is much more serious because it can be a more dangerous environment.
Inheritance has a different meaning in family businesses not in farms, because while it is financially useful to inherit the business, inheritance does not preclude entering the business to the same extent it does with farming. There were no instances where women said that they were not working in a family business because their brother inherited. In three instances women had inherited businesses with other siblings, including brothers, and in one instance a woman inherited the business from her father. Where women had passed on businesses, in one instance it was to two sons and in the other, it was to a daughter-in-law. In general there was less commitment to the idea of inheritance, and greater acceptance that women may not want to continue the business:
And in terms of going forward would you hope that one of them would continue it?
Do you know not necessarily no. I would hate to limit them to it, absolutely hate to. I mean fundamentally it is not a sensible way to try and earn a living, it really isn't. It's not a proper income as far as I'm concerned. We can make it work because we don't childcare because we can be flexible although it means we're working at home when pretending to look after children, and we're working at night a lot. It's not something I would in any way dictate, neither of us would, and I would...certainly I would never allow them to come here as their I've left university what am I going to do? No way! They would be going to have a proper job and get experience and work out what they really want to do. # Woman in family business # 1 woman new entrant business; her business with husband
But they have. I mean they have both taken to it and they both went their separate ways, my eldest is a graduate of fine art, and… he just said if I haven't got a proper career by the time I'm thirty I'm coming into your business which he did. And he turned it around completely more or less, not completely, and then my other son went off to New Zealand for five years and worked in hospitality. So he came back really well trained so it was good to have the two facets of the business. # Woman in family business #2 woman whose two sons have taken over the business
And would you in terms of going forward, would you hope that one of them will continue?
It will be totally up to them. It really will. If they decided that they wanted to yeah we would support them and encourage them, but um...they'd have to want to do it. You know we definitely wouldn't push them into doing it. # Woman in family business #3 woman who married into the business
The women in family businesses do not aspire to their children coming into their business as a matter of course. Instead they prefer the idea that their children will go and work elsewhere in the first instance, but even then there is no expectation that their children must continue the business.
Interestingly, similar to the situation in agriculture, there were two instances where inheritance was presented as an obligation as well as a privilege:
Okay so I have 2 businesses, as you know a print shop which has been my family's print shop and my dad...six years ago wanted to retire from the shop and so I agreed to start running the business. Um...my own business that I started was a children's nursery which I've had since 2010.
And is it very important to your dad that you continue it?
Yeah there's an element, my dad is probably not a sentimental person but yes he would like to see it continued I'm sure.
Would you have 2 businesses if you hadn't kind of...if one hadn't been passed through intergenerationally?
Uh...I would have been more likely to open another nursery, uh huh. I've gone through phases of being happy and just fed up with [her father's business] # Women in family business focus group #1
Yes! Yeah! It's a bit of a noose sometimes because...I kind of landed into it, it wasn't like...yours was a choice that you made to go down the accountancy route and that feels very...that feels really ..what's the word I'm looking for? I feel like unappreciative that's what I mean unappreciative that I've been given this opportunity but sometimes I feel it's a little bit tying And I feel like I can't go anywhere, I can't leave it...not that I particularly want to and I'm such a home bird that I never probably would but you've always got in the back of your head, 'oh maybe I could be here or I could be there', I could just Yeah! You feel an obligation. # Women in family business focus group #2 (this woman inherited with her brother)
It was not the case that women in business only inherit if they have no brothers. Women inherit family businesses on their own and sometimes with siblings. In general there was not the same steadfast commitment to the family business being continued intergenerationally. There were some instances of inheritance being seen as a constraint as well as a privilege. Overall, inheritance is not the same barrier it is for women in agriculture.