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From Vixens to Victorious: The rise of women’s power, competition, and ambition in family business leadership

Insight Patricia Annino Patricia Annino · December 02, 2019

Rimon Partner, Patricia Annino, writes a compelling article on women's leadership in modern family businesses. This article contains factual evidence on the historical family business structure and women's roles in it, empowering outcomes of women in leadership today, and tips to succeed as a woman in the family business.


In a 1971 Harvard Business Review case study, “Conflicts that Plague Family Businesses,” the patriarch lamented that a problem faced by fathers and brothers occurred when wives or sisters got involved in the business.

“When business is off, women complain. If the president wants to buy more equipment, the woman resists. If the wives hear complaints from employees or merchant friends, they make these complaints known at family gatherings. Thus,” the case study concludes, “the president is never free from the VIXENS who are constantly criticizing and second-guessing him.”

“Vixen” literally refers to a female fox, but its extended meaning is “a sexy woman” or “a shrew” – an aggressively assertive woman. We seem to have no deprecating name for aggressively assertive men, but we have several for women. “Bossy” for example, is another way to express the negative reaction that women get if they talk in ways that are expected from someone in authority.

It is no surprise, therefore, that in 1986 Dr. Mathilde Salganicoff wrote that daughters faced a constant struggle to be heard in family businesses. They had to constantly prove themselves as someone who could get the job done. “Even with dedication,” she wrote, “most women in family-owned businesses are still finding themselves denied the goal they seek – succeeding Dad.” She stated that virtually all experts agreed that family business owners would only choose a daughter to succeed them as a last resort – and maybe not even then.

But the tide was turning.

Read the full article here.


Patricia M. Annino is a partner in Rimon’s Trust and Estates Group. A nationally recognized authority on estate planning and taxation. Ms. Annino has more than 30 years of experience serving the diverse needs of families, individuals, and owners of closely-held businesses. Prior to joining Rimon, Ms. Annino worked at Prince Lobel, where she served as Chair of the firm’s Estate Planning and Probate Group. Ms. Annino’s practice includes all aspects of private client work, including estate planning; will and trust planning; incapacity planning; prenuptial and postnuptial agreements; estate litigation; advising executors, trustees and beneficiaries and administration of estates and trusts.  Read more.

Attorney Advertising. This document is not intended to be and is not considered to be legal advice. Transmission of this document is not intended to create, and receipt does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.