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Ladies first? Featured

10:10am EDT July 22, 2002

Ladies first?

By Ray Marano

If Sam Jack thought that women in general were less able than men to handle the rigors of running a business, his attitude wasn't all that unusual. Men of his generation commonly observed primogeniture as the rule, and handed the reins of their companies over to the eldest male child. If there was no direct male successor, a nephew or other male relative might have been the one to take charge.

But the oldest male child may not necessarily find himself in the top position when it comes to succession in the future. Women, as well as younger siblings, are more often finding themselves taking over when company owners retire, even though the barriers haven't been broken down completely.

"I think there's still a lot of resistance to that, but I think it's starting to change," says Ann Dugan, director of the Family Enterprise Center at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business. "People are starting to think that it can be someone other than the oldest son."

And, Dugan points out, with a growing number of family-owned manufacturing and other old-industry firms in Western Pennsylvania poised to be passed onto the following generation, more companies are likely to have women sitting in the CEO's seat.