Opportunities for improving diversity in family businesses identified


New research from Grant Thornton reveals that 49 per cent of family-business operators believe that gender diversity is a priority or considered important for their business.

Grant Thornton’s 2023 Family Business Survey data suggets that may be a result of the current uncertain economic climate in Australia as it will pull business owners back into operations where there is less focus on strategic pillars such as diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The research also highlights that the relationship between diversity in teams and financial outperformance is correlated, with evidence of it strengthening over time. Furthermore, businesses that are excelling in the diversity and inclusion space are proactively adopting structured strategies and approaches to reach their gender diversity goals, creating a sustainable inclusion culture.

The report also emphasises that there are advantages for family businesses that implement diversity. A key differentiator for family businesses is their long-standing values that are integrated through all aspects of their operations, and while diversity targets remain a lower priority in the current economic conditions, the results confirmed that family businesses can still identify the top benefits of gender diversity including staff performance, acquisition and retention, and improved decision-making.

The research noted the following trends among particular groups:

  • Respondents aged between 18 and 24 are interested in developing a diversity strategy (67 per cent).
  • Women in family businesses recognise the benefits of sustainable strategies (60 per cent).
  • Businesses that have been operating for 71-100 (third or fourth generation) years are developing, embedding or realising a gender diversity strategy (50 per cent).

The report also identified key barriers to achieving gender diversity outcomes such as lack of suitable candidates to employ (19 per cent), low strategic priority (14 per cent), and a competitive job market (7 per cent), with a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents noting there are no barriers to diversity within their family business.

“Creating a diverse team is important, but it doesn’t come without challenges,” Kirsten Taylor-Martin, Partner & National Head of Family Business Consulting at Grant Thornton, commented. “Industries that have more female and female-identifying participation such as childcare, as well as family business owners who have children all from the same gender working together, may find it more challenging to think outside of the box when it comes to their gender diversity strategies.

“However, now is the perfect opportunity to try and approach diversity from a new angle, building structures into your business governance frameworks to ensure diversity of thought, even when industry barriers seem present,” Taylor-Martin added.

“For family businesses to continue to incorporate diversity and gender into their business structures, it’s about identifying what they can do – and are most likely already doing – through their ingrained family values. Family businesses need to go beyond finding diversity opportunities in operational staff and look to non-family employees, Non-Executive Directors, Advisory Boards or Partnerships to showcase diversity. It’s about fostering diversity to ensure quality decision-making, growth and the best outcomes for all people and the business,” Taylor-Martin concluded.