«Generation Daughter» study: reversing traditional roles

Norbert Kühnis Partner and Leader Family Business & SMEs, PwC Switzerland 22 March, 2021

PwC’ Switzerland’s Generation Daughter study is devoted to the role of women in the succession process at Swiss family businesses. Business-owning families still have more male than female successors. An enormous pool of potential resources remains untapped.
  • Swiss family firms are still far more likely to pin their hopes on young men than young women.
  • One in three daughters embarks on a career outside rather than getting involved in the family business.
  • Female successors find their self-image eroded by stereotypes and prejudices.
  • An owner strategy and family governance are crucial to the survival of family businesses.
  • We’re offering an hour of succession advice – now for free. Would you like us to get in touch with you? Yes, please contact me.  

The study involved 189 women aged from 20 to 45 from traditional Swiss businesses. These days many women work for their family’s business, have senior roles, head the executive management or sit on the board of directors. But an astonishing number don’t have any role in the firm. Business-owning families still tend to favour sons when choosing successors and filling top management positions, even when there are daughters who are suitable candidates.

Sisters give way to their brothers

Sons often grow up with the stigma of ‘successor’. If female successors have no brothers they’re much more likely to take a role in the business. But once male siblings are in the running, only 18% of the women surveyed can imagine a future in the family firm – compared with 80% of study participants who don’t have brothers.


As for the question of the position within the family business daughters aspire to, only 19% can see themselves as CEO. Sisters are rarely their brother’s boss; this happens more frequently the other way round. Most of the study participants involved in the business are members of the board of directors. Of the women polled, 41% of the 20- to 32-year-olds are involved in a non-leadership role. Those who aren’t CEO are most likely to work in female-dominated departments such as sales and marketing, HR, administration or quality management. Not one single woman is to be found as head of production.

Daughters are highly qualified – but often work outside the family business.

Of the study participants who do not play an active role in the family business, 79% have a professional certificate, a master tradesperson’s diploma, a higher technical college degree, a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. When asked why they don’t have an active role in the firm, almost half cite a career outside the family business. A good third are currently gaining experience outside the family firm. And almost 14% give precedence to family life.

Clichés and a lack of acceptance from outside

One in four study participants believes that if they were a man they would have an easier time with staff. This lack of acceptance from outside the family erodes the self-confidence of many female successors. They feel they have to prove themselves and justify themselves in their role more than their male colleagues. All the same, study participants describe the owning family’s trust in their capabilities as reasonable (36%) to strong (60%).

Tap into the full pool of resources

In addition to being highly educated and trained, female successors constitute an enormous pool of potential knowledge, ideas and innovation. They’re ideally qualified to contribute to the debate on issues such as digitalisation and sustainability. And they’re keen to take responsibility for the business. Swiss family businesses are a long way from exploiting this potential.

It's a shame – and fatal from a business point of view – to limit the pool of resources to male successors. Family businesses should be making full use of their resources, giving potential candidates, male and female, the same rights and prospects, and assessing them on the basis of objective criteria.

Norbert Kühnis

You can download PwC’s Daughter Generation study (in German or French) at www.pwc.ch/generation-toechter.

Making provisions for the future is a key issue for family business owners. But only 24% of the family businesses polled use family governance tools. Feel free to contact me or my team to talk about matters such as your ownership strategy, family governance and succession planning. We’ll show you why an owner strategy is so important and how to go about drawing one up.

I’ll also be glad to help if you have any topics around the study. I look forward to hearing from you.

Norbert Kühnis

Partner and Leader Family Business & SMEs, Zürich, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 63 63



Contact us

Norbert Kühnis

Norbert Kühnis

Partner and Leader Family Business & SMEs, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 63 63

Reto Blaser

Reto Blaser

Leiter Unternehmensentwicklung Familienunternehmen & KMU, PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 1417