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Activities involved in succession process 6

  1. 1. Family Business Review http://fbr.sagepub.comSuccession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender Paula D. Harveston, Peter S. Davis and Julie A. Lyden Family Business Review 1997; 10; 373 DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-6248.1997.00373.x The online version of this article can be found at: Published by: On behalf of: Family Firm Institute Additional services and information for Family Business Review can be found at: Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  2. 2. Succession Planning in Family Business:The Impact of Owner GenderPaula D. Harveston, Peter S. Davis, Julie A. Lyden Research on succession planning in family businesses has largely neglected issues linked to owner gender. The present study examines the extent to which differences are evident between male- and female-led family businesses in succession planning processes. Using data from a national survey of family- business owners, we explore the predictors of the comprehensiveness of succes- sion planning. The results confirm that there are similarities and differences between males and females in the determinants of succession planning.IntroductionFamily businesses are an integral part of the socioeconomic environment inthe United States. They comprise an estimated 80% to 90% of businesses inthe United States and represent 44% of America’s gross national product (Strite,1993). Despite their ubiquity in the American economy, family businesses havea complex set of problems that have not been completely addressed by classi-cal management theory (Davis and Stern, 1980). Succession is widely recognized as “. . . the most important issue that mostfamily firms face” (Handler, 1994). In the context of family business, succes-sion involves the transference of leadership for the purposes of continuingfamily ownership (Davis, 1968). For a family business to outlive its founder, itmust experience succession. In other words, succession constitutes the centralissue that must be addressed in order for the family business to survive and bepassed on through generations (Applegate, 1994). Despite the acknowledged importance of succession issues to the familybusiness, little is known about the role of owner gender in the succession-planning process. One of this study’s primary goals is to address this gap in ourknowledge by looking at similarities and differences in succession planningprocesses across male- and female-led family business. The need for such research is given impetus by the rising number of fe-male-owned businesses. According to statistics compiled by Dun and BradstreetInformation Services, there nearly are some 8 million women-owned busi- Note: We wish to thank the MassMutual Life Insurance Company for allowingus access to the data used in this study.FAMILY BUSINESS REVIEW, vol. 10, no.4, December 1997 © Family Firm Institute, Inc. 373 Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  3. 3. 374 Harveston, Davis, Lydennesses in the United States. Although the majority of these businesses are self-employed women, they generate $2.28 trillion in sales and employ 18.5 mil-lion people—27% of U.S. workers (The National Foundation for WomenBusiness Owners, 1996). Despite the rise in the number of female-led businesses, “. . . the wholerole of the addition of women into the succession process has not been well-developed” (Danco, 1994). Few studies have directly compared the successionpractices of male-led with female-led family businesses. More specifically, areview of the literature failed to turn up any studies that examined the deter-minants of succession-planning processes separately for businesses headed bymales and females. Several authors (e.g., Farquhar, 1989; Handler, 1994) haveargued that failing to include gender in our models has yielded a myopic viewof succession. Based on theory and past research, our study examines the effects ofcertain factors (i.e., individual, organizational, and capital) on the extensive-ness of succession planning processes in family businesses. We make com-parisons between male-led and female-led family businesses to determinewhether the effects of these variables differ according to the gender of theowner/manager.Succession in Family BusinessesFamily businesses are unique institutions. They represent a context (or anarena) in which two seemingly disparate social units (i.e., families and busi-nesses) are highly integrated. In the family firm, “. . . the intimate connec-tion between family and business is considered natural and compatible” (Davis,1968). This connection extends to succession across generations, which, al-though natural, can be a difficult process (Farquhar, 1989; Vancil, 1987).Recently, driven by demographics and a heightened awareness of the issue,the proportion of family-owned firms that have prepared plans to guide suc-cession has doubled, although it still remains below 50% (Selz, 1995). Afailure to appropriately prepare for succession has been cited as a major im-pediment to survival (Handler, 1988; Beckhard and Dyer, 1983). Other au-thors, however, have challenged such arguments, stating that they find noempirical linkage between the use of written succession plans and firm con-tinuity (Astrachan and Kolenko, 1993). The need to improve our under-standing of succession planning and its determinants is suggested by statis-tics showing that only 30% of family businesses survive past the first genera-tion (Beckhard and Dyer, 1983; Dyer, 1986), and only 10% to 15% surviveto a third generation (Applegate, 1994). Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  4. 4. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 375Distinguishing Succession in Family BusinessesOver the years, there have been several exemplary reviews of research on thetopic of succession (e.g., Brady and Helmich, 1984; Gordon and Rosen, 1981;Handler, 1994, 1988). A recent comprehensive survey of the past thirty yearsof succession research by Kesner and Sebora (1994) found that although ar-ticles on succession had increased by more than 250% since 1970, much ofthis research has been so “. . . diffused and often chaotic [that] despite thisincreased activity, results [do] not provide a clearer understanding of the hy-pothesized relationships nor a consistent model of antecedents, consequences,or contingencies” (p. 361). Some of this apparent chaos may be attributed togaps in our understanding of the succession process, particularly on the sub-ject of succession in family firms. In her extensive review of succession re-search in family firms, Handler (1994) identified four major areas where suc-cession research is scant: succession among different ethnic groups, the im-pact of family dynamics, the effectiveness of succession, and the role of gen-der. This latter area is especially appropriate for study, now that women aremore and more frequently becoming founders of, and heirs to, family busi-nesses. This study on the role of gender in family businesses focuses on the suc-cession planning process. The approach is consistent with the prevailing viewamong researchers that “succession is more a process than an event”(Handler,1994). The next section reviews prior research on factors likely to influencesuccession planning. The focus then turns to evidence on whether the effectsof these factors on succession planning processes are influenced by the genderof the owner/manager.The Succession Planning ProcessConsiderable evidence exists to substantiate the belief that the presence ofconscious organizational planning and preparation for succession is amongthe most important factors in ensuring effective executive succession (Kesnerand Sebora, 1994). Family succession (in the broadest sense, that of the mantlebeing passed to the next generation) can be a highly emotional and conten-tious issue, which can lead to major rifts within the family and the business asparticipants “choose sides.” To maintain family and organizational cohesive-ness, management must develop planning processes and mechanisms that pro-vide a valid structure for the transference of leadership. By placing the succes-sion process within a planning framework, the transition in leadership fromone generation to the next gains additional legitimacy. By definition, plans for succession usually include an identifiable set ofelements, all of which must antedate the actual succession event. In his pio-neering study, Christensen (1953) proposed some of the elements that wouldmost typically be included in such a plan: (1) identifying the pool of poten-tial successors; (2) designating of the successor; (3) notifying the successor- Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  5. 5. 376 Harveston, Davis, Lydendesignate and other management leaders. The elements described byChristensen provide a framework for understanding the tasks required for asuitably comprehensive succession-planning process. For example, giving con-sideration to several possible successors might indicate that a more compre-hensive succession process is undertaken than when only one successor isconsidered (Vancil, 1987). Communication plays an important role in legitimizing the chosen suc-cessor. Announcing the decision to others represents a public commitment bythe current leadership to implement change and legitimizes, in the eyes ofpeers and subordinates, the process by which a successor was chosen. Thismay help avoid power struggles within the organization, as nonsuccessors willbe less likely to successfully dispute the succession. However, communications concerning a chosen successor may not elimi-nate all conflict. Minimizing conflict over succession is not as simple as an-nouncing a choice of successor. It can only legitimize the process; it does notlegitimize that person as the anointed successor. It does, however, provide animportant acknowledgment by the predecessor of the passing on of leadershipand responsibility for the family business. Consequently, an awareness of therole of communication in the succession process can often help both familyand non-family members of the firm place their own situation in context. The framework proposed by Christensen (1953) is sufficient to maintainbasic organizational coherence while making it possible for the firm to planproactively for successful transitions in leadership. In contrast, attempts atpatchwork solutions can trap the predecessor between conflictual behavior inthe family and the necessity for transition. Implementing the succession pro-cess as outlined above is an important mechanism in providing the family busi-ness with identity, stability, and continuity.Determinants of Succession Processes in Family BusinessesAn extensive review of the literature reveals many variables to have been con-jecturally or empirically related to succession. Handler’s (1988) theoreticalmodel of succession in the family business points to factors at the individual,interpersonal, and group levels, as well as the organizational and even envi-ronmental levels affecting succession planning. Given the intent of the presentstudy, our focus was on variables representing (1) individual attributes (e.g.,demographics); (2) organizational characteristics (e.g., structure, size); and (3)environmental factors (e.g., the availability of financial resources). Manager Characteristics. The inclusion of individual characteristics (e.g.,owner’s age and education) is consistent with the broader theory of organiza-tional demographics (Pfeffer, 1983) and the upper echelons perspective ar-ticulated by Hambrick and Mason (1984), both of which support managerialbackground and characteristics as important predictors of organizational be-haviors and outcomes. Pfeffer provides further support for their inclusion, Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  6. 6. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 377arguing that managerial succession is influenced by the demographic compo-sition of organizational leaders. Age. In the succession process, one of the more important characteristicsof the family-business owner/manager is his or her age. As Lansberg (1988)notes, the family’s approach to succession planning is often highly related tothe founder’s age. Research indicates that older executives tend to have a stron-ger commitment to the organization (Becker, 1973) and to be more risk averse(Carlsson and Karlsson, 1970). Preparations for succession may be a means bywhich the owner can demonstrate commitment to the organization and itsfuture, while controlling risk. As the owner ages, his or her awareness of theneed to prepare for the inevitable transition of ownership and control increases,and along with it, the need for succession planning. Kets de Vries (1985) and Lansberg (1988) give reasons why successionplanning is a topic that family-business owners approach with some am-bivalence. Owners may resist succession planning because they feel threat-ened, perhaps, by their fear of losing control, their desire to avoid prefer-ential treatment of children, or because a loss of identity and power in thefirm may also result in loss of stature within the community. Nevertheless,with advancing age, the inevitability of death, and the threat of debilitatingillness tends to compel the owner to make preparation for the continuityof the family business. Education. Relatively little research has examined education and trainingas they directly relate to planning for the succession process. However, thereare some studies of family businesses which show a positive relationship be-tween education and innovation (Kimberly and Evanisko, 1981), while others(e.g., Datta and Guthrie, 1994) have linked the owner’s level of formal educa-tion with the willingness to implement change. While these studies provideno clear confirmation of a positive relation between owner education and suc-cession planning, nevertheless, they do provide a basis, however tentative, forconjecturing that there is one. To the extent that planning for organizationalsuccession is innovative and represents the current owner’s willingness to re-duce his/her commitment to controlling the organization, then the relation-ship between the owner’s level of education and the extent of succession plan-ning should be positive. Financial Stake. Resource dependency (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1977;Yuchtman and Seashore, 1967) theory structures our expectations about anowner’s financial stake in the organization and the extensiveness of the succes-sion process. Resource dependency theory suggests that as dependency on acritical resource (or provider) increases, so too will the efforts of recipients tocontrol those interdependencies, and that as the current owner’s financial in-terests increase, so too will the comprehensiveness of the succession planningprocess. Research shows that financial indices, such as personal wealth, aretied to entrepreneurial intentions and behaviors (Krueger and Carsrud, 1993).In addition, formalizing the succession planning process could provide the Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  7. 7. 378 Harveston, Davis, Lydenindividual with a way to ensure the survival of the firm (the resource) on whichhe or she depends. Cyert and March (1963) support this rationale with behav-ioral arguments for a positive relation between a manager’s ownership in andconsequent commitment to the organization. More pertinent for this discus-sion is Marino’s and Dollinger’s (1987) finding that a manager’s financial stakein the organization has an important influence in succession decisions. Logi-cally, we would expect that as an owner’s income and financial stake increase,so too will his or her willingness to engage in succession planning. Organizational Characteristics. Size. Although family business is oftenthought to be synonymous with small business, this is not necessarily true. Infact, some of the world’s largest companies (e.g., Cargill, M&M Mars) arefamily-controlled (Litz, 1995). Although there is ample evidence in the litera-ture linking organizational size to succession, most of these studies have fo-cused on the relationship between size and the frequency of succession or theeffect of succession on stockholders while largely ignoring the effects of sizeon succession planning (Davidson, Worrell, and Cheng, 1990). For several reasons, increasing size may make family-owned businessesmore sensitive to the need for extensive succession planning. As organizationsbecome larger, they have greater opportunities to train and develop top man-agement and more complex succession plans (Helmich, 1977). Trow (1961)argued that large companies tend to have more elaborate training programsand complex succession plans than do small firms. Thus, we would expect apositive relation between the size of the organization and its preparations forsuccession. Furthermore, larger organizations have the resources to engage the out-side counsel that might encourage planning for succession. They also haveaccess to external consultants whose professional advice may facilitate the suc-cession planning process (Chaganti, Chaganti, and Malone, 1991). These fac-tors alone might ensure that larger family businesses would have more quali-fied, experienced candidates in place for possible succession. Formality. Organizational structure has been described as a multidimen-sional construct. Several reviews (e.g., Fredrickson, 1986; Hall, 1977) indicatethat formalization, integration, and centralization are the most consistent di-mensions; this is supported by empirical research. The relevance of formalityfor this research is provided by Miller’s (1987) finding that rational decision-making in organizations may require organizations to be formalized and inte-grated, but not centralized. Further support for the importance of formaliza-tion comes from Fredrickson (1986), who argued that rationality in organiza-tional processes is associated with three aspects of formalization. Specifically,by the use of controls, specialization, and the implementation of formal poli-cies and procedures. Miller also finds that formalizing the use of devices, suchas task forces and committees, provides a forum for discussion among manag-ers and executives (e.g., boards of directors), and that this promotes a thor-ough and multifaceted assessment of problems, proposals, and plans. Research Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  8. 8. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 379links formality in organizations to their planning behaviors (Rue, 1973;Robinson and Pearce, 1983). In the context of family businesses, Kets de Vries (1977) provides supportfor the importance of formality in raising the level of succession planning. Hefinds that one of the key factors that most adversely affects success amongfamily business is the owner’s refusal to formalize the organization. One wayto provide additional structure and formalization within a family business is toinclude external influencers, such as a board of directors (Barach, 1984). Rock(1987) shows that outsiders influence the strategic decisions made by CEOs.Miller, Droge, and Toulouse (1988) studied 77 small firms that were closelyheld, either by an owner, a family, a group of partners, or a holding company,and found evidence to support a positive relation between structural formal-ization and rationality in decision-making processes within family businesses.Although we lack direct evidence linking formality to succession planning,prior findings suggest that increased formality has a positive affect on the com-prehensiveness of the succession-planning process in family businesses. Capital. Many authors argue that one skill necessary to survival is thejudicious acquisition of resources. The ability to gain access to resources(e.g., capital) provides a cushion of actual or potential slack in resources thatgives managers discretion and flexibility in preparing the organization forchange, whether change is external (e.g., changes in markets) or internal(i.e., succession). As Davis and Stern (1980) observe, “Organizational slackprovides a buffer with which to absorb the variances raised by family issues.”Obviously, the most discretionary slack comes from the most discretionaryresources including cash, cash equivalents, and credit lines (Sharfman, Wolf,Chase, and Tansik, 1988). As access to capital becomes easier, managers canuse spare or slack resources to prepare the organization for future successionwhile insuring internal stability, perhaps by minimizing political behaviorand discord within the top management group via bargaining or coalition-forming activities (Bourgeois and Singh, 1983). Consequently, slack resources,in the form of accessible capital, can facilitate succession planning by allow-ing the firm to focus attention on external opportunities rather than on in-ternal conflict. Some authors argue that family businesses may be at a disadvantage inobtaining access to external capital (Kets de Vries, 1993). Therefore, theymay be forced to rely heavily on internal sources of capital, such as thatprovided by family members. Of course, family businesses that have bothfamily investors and employees are more likely to be concerned with thelong-term survival of the firm (Gundry and Welsch, 1994). Having a clearsuccession process is one way to ensure consistency in achieving the goals ofthe family as well as those of the resource providers. Consequently, as thefamily assumes a greater role as a provider of capital, the organization shouldexhibit an increased tendency to implement succession-planning processesas part of a broader effort to ensure the business’s survival. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  9. 9. 380 Harveston, Davis, Lyden In summary, the review of the literature suggests that each of the threefactors investigated here (i.e., individuals, organizations, and resources) shouldexert a positive effect on succession preparation in family businesses. That is,as individuals rise in age, education, income, and the percentage of worth theyhave invested in the business, the more extensive the firm’s succession plan-ning should be. Similarly, as organizations become larger and more formal,the more extensive the firm’s succession planning. Finally, the more accessiblecapital becomes and the greater the reliance on internal sources of capital (i.e.,family), then the more extensive the firm’s succession planning.The Effects of Gender on Succession PlanningOnly recently has the topic of gender in succession planning become perti-nent. According to Richard Burkholder, director of worldwide operations forThe Gallup Organization, “There is a strong perception that society favorsmen over women” (Prasso, 1996). This persistent gender bias extends to theworkplace. Since males dominate top positions in the business world, entre-preneurship and self-employment have become the primary routes by whichwomen can overcome gender discrimination (Cromie and Hayes, 1988). How-ever, even self-employed women may face difficulties not common to self-employed men because of barriers associated with education and family re-sponsibilities (Aldrich, 1989; Goffee and Scase, 1983). Nevertheless, womenare starting their own businesses at twice the rate of men (Chaganti, Chaganti,and Malone, 1991). Because of the increased presence of women, it is impor-tant to consider implications that the gender of the owner/manager mighthave on the succession process. Women are often thought to be disadvantaged relative to men in the busi-ness arena. It is commonly believed that female-owned business are less suc-cessful and fail more often than male-owned businesses (Aldrich, 1989; Cuba,Decenzo, and Anish, 1983). Various explanations have been offered to explainthe phenomenon of differences between male- and female-led businesses. Somescholars argue that the impact of environmental attributes create barriers towomen’s success in business. For example, they argue that industries’ structureand institutional arrangements allow social bias against women to influenceorganizational behaviors and outcomes (Bandura, 1986). Another stream of research vests gender differences in individual factors,such as education, planning, and financial capabilities, areas that have beenidentified by women as weaknesses (Hisrich and Brush, 1986; Stevenson, 1986).For example, evidence suggests that the effects of education on subsequentdecision making and managerial advancement are greater in men than amongwomen. Fagenson (1990) found that the skills acquired through training, edu-cation, and work experience appear to influence managerial promotions, andthat these skills are better rewarded (via career advancement) for men than forwomen. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  10. 10. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 381 Because of this apparent gender bias, many scholars argue that theoriesdeveloped from research that have predominately utilized male samples maynot be transferable to discussions of female business owners (Powell andMainiero, 1992). Tharenou, Latimer, and Conroy (1994) recommend that theeffects of human capital factors (e.g., education) be included in studies involv-ing differences between male and female managers. Consistent with the preceding logic and empirical evidence, we tested thefollowing hypothesis. Hypothesis 1: Individual characteristics (i.e., age, education, income) will have a stronger impact on succession planning within male-led organizations than those led by females. Another line of research suggests that men and women differ in the waythey think and that this difference is reflected in the manner in which theyorganize their businesses (Tannen, 1996 ). For example, a survey conducted bythe National Foundation for Women Business Owners (1994) found that maleentrepreneurs, to a greater extent than female entrepreneurs, stress logicalthinking, analyzing, processing information methodically, and developing pro-cedures for getting tasks done. In effect, male-led organizations tend to bemore hierarchically oriented, with established rules and clear delegation ofauthority. In contrast, female entrepreneurs tend to think of their businessesas families and their professional relationships as networks. The study con-trasted the differences between genders by noting that “Both within and out-side their businesses, women think of the relationships with their employees,suppliers, vendors, and customers as an interconnected network whereas manymen business owners think in hierarchical terms, compartmentalizing sets ofrelationships or affiliations” (National Foundation for Women Business Own-ers, 1994). As argued above, differences between male and female owner/managersmay vest themselves in the way they organize their businesses. These differ-ences may affect the relation between an organization’s structural characteris-tics (e.g., formality) and its succession-planning processes. Consistent withthis logic and the empirical evidence, we tested the following hypothesis. Hypothesis 2: The effects of organizational characteristics (i.e., size, formality) on succession planning will differ between male-led orga- nizations and female-led organizations. Another major challenge that confronts female-led organizations is find-ing sufficient capital to fund their businesses and provide needed slack. Thepopular press is full of anecdotal accounts that give the impression that manywomen business owners believe they are operating at a disadvantage in today’sfinancial environment. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  11. 11. 382 Harveston, Davis, Lyden One reason that women face restricted access to capital may have some-thing to do with the “liability of newness” concept proposed by Stinchombe(1965). Consistent with this concept, female-owned businesses, like other newforms of organizational phenomena, can be expected to have a more difficulttime than male-owned businesses in establishing their legitimacy, obtainingcapital, and developing a customer base. Often operating on a shoestring andlacking cash flow or credit history, many women business owners find capitalfrom traditional sources hard to come by. The result is that women are fre-quently forced to rely on credit cards, personal savings, and family loans tofund their businesses’ capital needs (Malloy, 1996). Despite evidence of capital restrictions among women-owned businesses,a recent survey by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (1994)and Dun & Bradstreet Information Services, found that nearly three fourthsof the women-owned businesses in existence in 1991 were still operationalthree years later, as compared with only two-thirds of all companies. In anyevent, it appears that access to capital may play less of a role in ensuring thesurvival and continuity of female-led organizations than of male-led ones.Consistent with this logic and prior empirical evidence, we tested the follow-ing hypothesis. Hypothesis 3: Capital factors (i.e., access to capital, family funding) will play a greater role in succession planning within male-led organi- zations than within female-led organizations. In summary, our review indicates that despite many calls for research onwomen-led businesses (Bowen and Hisrich, 1986; Cromie and Hayes, 1988;Hisrich and Brush, 1984; Kallenberg and Leicht, 1991; Schwartz, 1976), mostof what we know about owner/executive succession comes from studies of male-led organizations. Although the literature abounds with implications suggest-ing that the strength of proposed relationships may depend on the gender ofthe owner/manager, there is little previous research specific to the investiga-tion of gender and its relation to succession in family businesses. Since verylittle is known about succession in female-led organizations, our hypothesesmust be regarded as tentative, and the nature of our research considered asexploratory rather than confirming.MethodSample. The data used to tests the hypotheses were collected as part of twonational telephone surveys conducted in 1993 and 1994 by the Gallup Com-pany for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. The surveys investi-gated the operations of family-owned businesses. The samples of potentialbusinesses were drawn randomly from a comprehensive database of family-owned businesses maintained by Dun & Bradstreet and Survey Sampling. Since Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  12. 12. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 383t-tests on all pertinent variables revealed no significant differences across thetwo survey periods, the data from the 1993 and 1994 surveys were combinedto create a single sample The data have been used previously in studies of family business. For ex-ample, Astrachan and Kolenko (1994) used the data from the 1993 survey asthe basis for a study addressing human resource practices among family busi-nesses. The sample included a wide range of family-owned businesses that com-pete in most major U.S. industries. The firms surveyed had to meet the fol-lowing criteria: the company had to have at least ten employees; annual rev-enues of at least $2 million; and the company had to have been founded at leastten years prior to the survey. To be included, respondents were required to bethe primary owners of businesses, as identified by the title they held (e.g.,owner, president, CEO), and had to identify their business as a family busi-ness. In addition, respondents were asked whether they either “did,” “did not,”or “did not know” their plans to pass their ownership position in the businessto a “close relative or relatives.” An ANOVA across these three groups indicated that the group that “did”intend to pass on ownership was significantly different in the comprehensive-ness of their preparations for succession from both the “did not” and “did notknow” groups. The “did not” and “did not know” groups were not signifi-cantly different from each other in this regard. Only those 983 individuals,792 males and 191 females, who indicated they did intend to pass on theirownership were retained for subsequent analyses.Measurement of VariablesSuccession Process. In developing the dependent variable examined here, wetried to be consistent with Christensen’s (1953) presentation in identifyingelements that would effectively illustrate the main characteristics evident inplanning for succession. This led us to identify six items on the survey thatappeared to capture the comprehensiveness of the succession planning pro-cess. These included whether a written or unwritten succession plan had beenput in place; whether a possible successor had been identified and if so, whetherconsideration was given to only one successor or several possible successors;whether the chosen person or persons were informed that they were beingconsidered; whether a successor had been chosen to assume operating controlof the business; and whether the decision had been announced to others. The previous items were then collapsed to form a single scale whose val-ues ranged from zero (low) to seven (high). The resulting composite scale wascreated by scoring each of the six items as either zero or one, based on whetherit was or was not present. The sole exception was the question of whether apossible successor had been identified and, if so, whether consideration wasgiven to only one successor or several possible successors. Responses were Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  13. 13. 384 Harveston, Davis, Lydenscored zero if no one had been identified, one if only possible successor wasconsidered, and two if more than one successor was considered. Owner/Manager Characteristics. Our study included four measures ofindividual factors anticipated to relate to the comprehensiveness of successionplanning: age (AGE); education, (EDUC); income (INCOME); and the per-cent of their net worth invested in the business (WRTHPCT). Each respondent’s age was computed using his or her self-reported date ofbirth. The male respondents were slightly older (mean=52.7 years; s.d.=12.45),than female respondents (mean=48.4; s.d.=11.81). This difference was statisti-cally significant (t-value=4.3, p-value=.000). Education was approximated on the basis of the level of educational at-tainment of the respondent. We used a six-point scale with values rangingfrom one (when the respondent was not a high school graduate) up to six (whenthe respondent had a doctoral, masters’, or other post-graduate degree). Maleswere more likely than females to have attended college, 49.3% compared with31.9%. Analysis confirmed that the average educational achievement of malerespondents (mean=3.82; s.d.=1.22) was significantly higher (t-value=3.93; p-value=.000) than that of female respondents (mean=3.34; s.d.=1.13). We rated each respondent’s current annual income on a four-point scaleof “1” (less than $50,000), “2” ($50,000 to $100,000), “3” ($100,000 to $250,000)and “4” (more than $250,000). The average level of income for male owner/managers (mean=2.54; s.d.=1.00) was significantly higher (t-value=5.92; p-value=.000) than that for females (mean=2.05; s.d.=.88). We determined the dependency of the owner and his or her family onwealth invested in the business by asking respondents, “What percentage ofyour family’s net worth is tied up in the business?” Answers were rated “1” for“less than 25%” to “4” for “75% or more.” The percentage of a family’s wealthinvested in the business was significantly higher (F=2.67; p-value=.008) among Table 1. Correlation CoefficientsVariable Mean Succession Age Educ Income Wrthpct Size Formal Famfund Capacc PlanningSuccession 2.17 1.204PlanningAge 51.87 .228c 12.444Educ 3.72 .010 -.054a 1.540 c c cIncome 2.44 .093 .224 .205 1.000Wrthpct 2.68 .012 .017 -.031 .077b 1.033 b cSize 2.42 .071 .022 .202 .281c .096c 1.616 c c c cFormal 2.18 .137 .047 .118 .201 -.025 .110 1.066 b b cFamfund 2.10 .071 .013 -.077 -.054 .089 -.077b .025 1.037Capacc 3.09 .111c .025 .010 .293c -.044 .140c .089c -.073b .954a b c< .10, < .05, <.01, standard deviations are shown in the diagonals Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  14. 14. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 385male-led business (2.73) than among females-led businesses (2.50). Descrip-tive statistics and correlations for all variables included in the study appear inTable 1. Organizational Characteristics. We used two variables to define assessedorganizational characteristics. These were a firm’s size (SIZE) and its formal-ity (FORMAL). As is common in the literature (e.g., Datta and Guthrie, 1994;Friedman and Saul, 1991; Helmich and Brown, 1972), we used the reportednumber of employees in the organization to measure the size of the firm. Amongthe sampled firms, total employment ranged from a low of ten (the cut-off forinclusion in the study), to as many as 36,000. Since the size variable is notnormally distributed, we used the natural log of total employees in all subse-quent analysis. In our sample, male-led businesses were much larger than fe-male-led organizations, with an average of 67 employees (s.d.=255.89) versus17.37 (s.d.=32.93). These differences in size were statistically significant (t-value=4.12; p-value=zero). We used four items to assess the formality of anorganization’s structure: “written job descriptions,” “fixed compensation plans,”“formal employee performance review processes,” and “the holding of regularboard meetings.” These items were collapsed and recoded to yield an intervalvariable, whose values ranged from zero (indicating a low degree of formality)to four (indicating a high degree of formality). Analysis showed that male-ledbusinesses were, on average, significantly more formal than female-led busi-nesses (t-value=2.03; p-value=.043). Capitalization. We used two separate indicators to measure capitaliza-tion: access to capital (CAPACC) and family funding (FAMFUND). We de-termined the firm’s access to capital by asking owners to rate their currentaccess to capital as “poor,” “fair,” “good,” or “excellent.” These responses werethen scaled from one to four, respectively. In addition, we asked owners to ratethe importance of family funding as a source of capital, using a scale rangingfrom one, not at all important, to four, most important. Among our sample,male-led family businesses were not significantly different from their female-led contemporaries on either of these two measures.ResultsTo investigate the hypothesized relationships, we used hierarchical multipleregression analysis in which we divided our independent variables into or-dered sets by content—individual factors (age, education, income, percentageof individual worth invested), organizational factors (size, formality), and capitalfactors (access to capital, family funds)—entering blocks of data in that order.We regressed these blocks against the dependent variable (i.e., the compre-hensiveness of the succession planning process). We then repeated our analy-sis for the two subsamples of male-led and female-led family businesses, re-taining only those variables that demonstrated a significant predictive relationto succession when we examined the total sample. Table 2 presents the results Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  15. 15. 386 Harveston, Davis, Lyden Table 2. Results of Multiple Regression Models Predicting Comprehensiveness of the Succession Planning Process Male-Led Female-Led Combined Family Family Sample Businesses BusinessesIndependent b Standard b Standard b StandardVariables Error Error ErrorOwner Attributes Owner Age .0216*** .0033 .0257*** .0034 .0087 .0068Organization Formality .1291*** .0380 .0961* .0407 .2386** .0719 a Size .0363 .0260 .0211 .0258 .1548* .0626Financial Famfund .0875* .0384 .0660 .0404 .1766* .0821 Capacc .1262** .0436 .1188** .0448 .1181 .0866 b N 958 780 178a Measured as the logarithm of the total number of employeesb Attrition in sample from 983 to 958 is due to the exclusion of 25 observations due to missing values.*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001of regression analyses for the total sample and separately for the two subsamplesof family businesses headed by men and women. Total Sample. For the total sample, the results in Table 2 provide evi-dence that the characteristics of the owner/manager, the organization, and theavailability of financial resources (capital) affect the comprehensiveness of prepa-rations for organizational succession in family businesses. Specifically, we findthat the owner’s age, the organization’s formality, and the financial importanceof family funding, and access to capital positively influence the succession pro-cesses we examine here. Although it is not significant in the total sample, we retain the variablesize of the organization for further analysis. We did this based on theoreticalarguments relating formality to size. The correlation between size and for-mality in the sample examined here is low (.110) but highly significant (p<.001). The results confirmed many of our a priori expectations that as the ownergrows older, as the family business becomes more formalized, as the businessrelies more on family funding for capital, and as capital becomes more acces-sible, the the succession-planning process becomes more comprehensive. Having confirmed our a priori expectations, that these factors generallydemonstrate a positive and significant relation to succession planning, the nextquestion we addressed was whether the relative impact of each of these factorsvaries according to the gender of the owner. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  16. 16. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 387 The Impact of Owner Gender. Table 2 presents the results of the analysestesting the effects of gender on determinants of succession processes. To con-firm whether the results obtained for male and female owners were statisti-cally different, we used a Chow test (Chow, 1960). The results of the Chowtest confirmed that the overall regression equation for male owners is signifi-cantly different (p<.05) from that obtained for female owners. Consistent with Hypothesis 1 (the effects of individual characteristics onsuccession planning), we found that the owner’s age plays a greater role amongmale-led organizations than among female-led organizations, where the ageof the owner does not appear to be significant. The second research hypothesis, which posited that certain organizationalcharacteristics (i.e., size and formality) differed between male- and female-ledorganizations, was supported by the finding that organizational formality hasa stronger effect on female-led businesses than on male-led businesses. Fur-ther evidence supporting the hypothesis indicated that among the sample offemale-led family businesses, increasing the size of the firm significantly in-creases the comprehensiveness of the succession planning process. In effect,increases in the two organizational variables (size and formality) also increasesthe comprehensiveness of the succession planning process among female-ledbusinesses to a greater extent than among male-led businesses. The third hypothesis, which posited that capital factors (i.e., access to capitaland the importance of family funding) would play a greater role in determin-ing the comprehensiveness of the succession-planning process within male-led organizations than within female-led organizations, was rejected. Althoughaccess to capital does significantly (p<.01) increase the comprehensiveness ofthe succession-planning process within male-led family businesses, family fundshave, at best, a marginal effect (p<.12). In contrast, we observed a nearly oppo-site effect among the female-led contingent, in which family funds play a sig-nificant role (p<.05) and access to capital is not significant (p<.16). Discussion. In general, this study supported its underlying thesis: that therelatedness between individual, organizational, and resource variables and thecomprehensiveness of the succession-planning process differ according towhether the family business is headed by a male or female owner/manager.We confirmed that significant differences in succession planning processesexist across male- and female-owned businesses at all three levels of analysis(individual, organization, and resource). Surprisingly, at the resource level, succession planning within male-ledbusinesses benefits more from increased access to capital than do female-ledbusinesses, whereas the opposite is true for the provision of family funding. Importantly, those differences that we found between male- and female-led family businesses cannot be attributed to differences between the genderson the emphasis that each places on preparations for succession. Indeed, posthoc analysis confirms that the mean value of the comprehensiveness of succes-sion planning (the dependent variable) for females does not differ from the Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  17. 17. 388 Harveston, Davis, Lydenmean value of males. However, while both groups appear to place similar im-portance on preparations for succession, we found that the determinants ofthe comprehensiveness of involved succession processes differ between thesexes. To some extent, these findings are consistent with many previous stud-ies that have suggested that men and women behave differently. In effect, theresults obtained here suggest that even though they may have the same goalsin terms of succession planning, alternative mechanisms are at work in female-led versus male-led organizations. The factors studied here that affect succession planning in organizationswere organized into individual- and macro-level variables. The former includedattributes associated with individual owners and managers, such as age andeducational attainment. The latter included attributed of the involved organi-zations and their resource environment, such as organizational size, formality,access to financial resources, and the sources (providers) of capital. Considerable research on the role of gender in family business initiativeshas focused on micro-level variables, identifying individuals’ demographic andpersonality characteristics that precipitate entrepreneurial ventures (e.g., Ward,1987). While these micro-level variables provide some insight into the reasonswomen become entrepreneurs, their effects on succession planning have notreceived much attention. Intuitively, the lack of significance of individual factors found among oursample of women business owners could be interpreted as implying that indi-vidual variables (i.e., age, education, worth invested in the firm) are not asimportant in determining succession behaviors within female-led family busi-nesses as they are within male-led ones. On this basis, our results seem toquestion the necessity of including human capital factors in theories of women’smanagerial advancement (Tharenou, Latimer, and Conroy, 1994). Be wary, however, of drawing possibly premature conclusions based onthe results obtained here. For example, given how recently women have comeinto prominence as owners/managers of family businesses, we might expectthem to be younger, less educated, and less affluent than their male counter-parts. As reported earlier in the “Methods” section, such was the case amongthe present sample. In our sample, male owners were older than female own-ers, had a higher income, and were more likely to have attended college thantheir female counterparts. Differences in characteristics between the samplegroups may offer an alternative explanation as to why individual variables havea weaker effect on succession planning among women-led organizations thanin male-led organizations. On the macro side, we hypothesized that differences between males andfemales would affect the relation between various structural devices (e.g., asformalization), such organizational characteristics as size, and, the resultingcomprehensiveness of succession planning. Our results indicated that althoughthe effects of increasing structural formalization appeared greater within fe-male-led businesses, male-led businesses also benefitted. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  18. 18. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 389 One explanation for this finding is that as the organization matures andevolves toward succession, it naturally becomes more formalized. Such matu-ration processes, including increasing organizational formality, might enablefamily businesses to focus managements’ attention on issues while avoiding“power games” by family members, firm managers, and external constituen-cies (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). Paradoxically, the effects of imposing in-creasing structure within the family firm may actually allow the owner greaterfreedom to identify prospective successors and to prepare for the ultimate tran-sition of power. Of course, it is also possible that the effects of formalization on successionplanning may be spurious, attributable to some other causal mechanism, suchas whether intergenerational succession has previously occurred in the firm. While the effect of organizational formality on succession planning pro-cesses is positive for both male- and female-led family businesses, the same isnot true for organizational size (i.e., number of employees). Instead, we findthat size has a significant positive effect only among the female-led familybusinesses. One reason may be due to the relative newness of the wide-spreadphenomenon of female-led family businesses. Because of their recency, familyorganizations headed by women might be smaller and less formal than organi-zations headed by males. In fact, these differences prevailed in the sample. Aswe noted in the “Methods” section, male-led businesses in our sample wereboth larger and more formal than their female counterparts. These differ-ences in formality and size can also explain why small changes in these twoorganizational variables exert a stronger influence on succession planningamong female-led family businesses than in male-led ones. Finally, we have provided a rationale for expecting that reliance on theorganization’s resource environment, in particular as providers of capital, in-fluences succession planning. Because of the relative newness of female-ledbusiness, or perhaps because of a lack of financial support, we have hypoth-esized that women will suffer from constraints in regard to capital that are notfaced by their male counterparts, and that these constraints inhibit successionplanning. One explanation for the importance of the family as a source of financialsupport and its subsequent affect on succession-planning processes used bywomen business owners is that the sources of financial and social support areinextricably intertwined. This interpretation is supported by a recent study byEnglebrecht, Chandler, and Jansen (1996), which found that women businessowners tended to cite the same sources (i.e., family) as the primary locus of bothsocial and financial support. Their findings are compatible with Hisrich’s andBrush’s (1986) conclusions that women turned to family members first whenseeking assistance. On the other hand, misperceptions among the involved population ofwomen business owners as to their access to various sources of capital mayhave biased them toward certain providers of capital. One possible source of Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  19. 19. 390 Harveston, Davis, Lydensuch misperceptions is the business and popular media, which Aldrich andLiou (1996) show as having systematically neglected to cover women entre-preneurs and owners. As a result, current and prospective women businessowners may have been led to expect difficulty in accessing external capital andare therefore extremely sensitive to the influence of family members. In addi-tion, the lack of media coverage may have engendered a lack of awareness ofwomen owners as a potential market for capital providers, thus further re-stricting the influence of external capital providers in organizational affairs.Implications and ConclusionsOne of the fundamental missions of a family business is to pass the business tosubsequent generations (Davis, 1968). A substantial amount of literature hasaddressed issues of succession-planning processes. Our results suggest that thefactors that most influence succession-planning processes are those that de-pend on the gender of the involved owner/manager of the family firm. Although the field has recognized the possibilities of gender differences,it has yet to clearly address the effects these differences might have for succes-sion behaviors. The working assumption has been that the same factors haveequal importance, regardless of the owner’s gender; however, this assumptionhas rarely been tested. Consequently, studies such as ours, which have exam-ined succession and the determinants of succession-planning processes, areespecially promising, partly because the effects of differences in owners’ gen-der have not received appropriate attention. The finding that gender matters has important implications for the re-searchers and professionals who work with family-business owners. First, be-cause our findings show that gender makes a difference, it should be clear thata “cookie-cutter” approach to succession issues may not be appropriate. Thebenefit of this knowledge is twofold: It allows us to evaluate the importance ofgender-specific models of organizational succession, and it highlights the dif-ferential impact of specific variables on succession processes. Second, in devising approaches for dealing with succession issues, con-sultants and family-business owners should recognize that what works well formale-led businesses will not necessarily work well for the female-led businesses.Unfortunately, the current literature on succession in family firms does notexplicitly tie recommended actions and processes to the gender of the owner,so the prescriptions may not have universal applications. Professionals andpractitioners should use the gender of the owner to better identify and evalu-ate variations in the critical drivers of succession processes. Our advice to consultants and researchers is to be selective in the atten-tion paid to certain individual and organizational characteristics and attributes.For example, our finding that certain characteristics (e.g., age) of the ownerare important as a determinant of succession-planning processes among male-led, but not among female-led, family businesses challenges life-cycle ap- Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  20. 20. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 391proaches to management of succession. Third, family-business consultants and owners should be aware that mana-gerial or other interventions aimed at affecting any one of these drivers may beinappropriate if the desired effects stem from another source. For instance, forfemale owner/managers, the source of capital (e.g., family) is more importantthan mere access to capital, while the reverse is true for male-led family firms. On the other hand, certain factors are important regardless of gender,although the size of the effect may differ. For example, the impact of formal-ization is consistent within both male- and female-led family businesses—thatis, the more formal the organization, the more likely the owner/manager(whether male or female) is to pursue a comprehensive succession-planningprocess. In summary, succession is as difficult a process as it is vital to the continu-ance of every family business. Because succession may occur only once everyfew decades, succession planning may not assume the priority it deserves infamily businesses (Lansberg, 1988). Professionals who interact with familybusinesses must be aware that business continuity is largely under the controlof the current owner/manager (Lansberg, 1988), and they also need to be awarethat male owners and female owners operate under different predictive pro-cesses on the issue of succession planning. In fact, the results of our studyshow that male and female owner/managers are influenced by different indi-vidual, organizational, and resource (capital) issues. How family-business owners can be directed toward more planned ap-proaches to succession is a research issue worthy of more investigation. Tomove beyond description into prescription requires that researchers take alongitudinal perspective that includes consideration of similarities and differ-ences between male- and female-led family businesses. Becaues the currentliterature on succession planning in family businesses does not explicitly tieowner gender to prescribed activities and processes, professionals who workwith family businesses should extensively monitor the emergence of womenowners. An unanswered question is whether an overall family-business model mayarise that encompasses both genders, or whether convergence in behaviorsmight occur as females gain parity in this arena. If so, then an important issuefor professionals would be whether men begin to adopt characteristics consis-tent with the female-led model evidenced here, or vice versa. Their observa-tions may serve to facilitate the implementation of appropriate succession plan-ning processes that are consistent with the owner’s gender.Limitations and Suggestions for Future ResearchBecause the number of new female entrepreneurs is growing at a faster ratethan male entrepreneurs (Schlender, 1994), the importance of continuing toexamine the gender issues surrounding succession is increasing. The present Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  21. 21. 392 Harveston, Davis, Lydenstudy attempts to bridge a gap in our knowledge regarding the role of genderon succession behaviors. In doing so, it provides a seldom-seen large-scalestudy of succession planning processes. We should note that our research has its limitations, not the least of whichis the research tool and variable measures. In addition, while the sample islarge and the issues examined are germane to succession, the study does notexamine many other issues that might be pertinent to succession. Thus, theresults should be seen as an incremental step in compiling knowledge aboutthe role of gender in succession planning processes. To advance our knowledge in this area, future researchers might chooseresearch designs that allow the use of alternate analytical techniques, such asqualitative research approaches. Perhaps a more “sensitive” research instru-ment and the use of alternative analytic techniques might better capture someof the variation in the human capital factors of female owners who either facethe succession decision or are in the middle of implementing a succession plan-ning process. In addition, future research should identify other, perhaps equally impor-tant, issues specific to female managerial actions and preparation for succes-sion. Two avenues in particular might be worth exploring: One is the influenceof family members (i.e., relatives in the workplace) on succession decisions.For example, perhaps the influence of family members is contingent on theirfamilial relationship (e.g., spouse, parent, child, sibling, cousin) and their posi-tion or role in the organization (e.g., line management, staff, operative). Inaddition, the influence these family members exert may have both direct andindirect components. Another area for future investigation could involve generational differ-ences in family businesses as leaders prepare for succession. For example, whenthe original founder/entrepreneur is present compared with a firm in whichone or more succession events have already occurred. It could be that the per-sonality and other individual characteristics of the founder play a much greaterrole when the original founder is present than when succession has previouslyoccurred. Furthermore, the founder may continue to exert influence or cast a“shadow” over the organization, even when he or she is no longer in directcontrol or physically present. In addition, future researchers may find it fruitful to examine the correla-tion between the gender of the owner and the gender of the successor and itsimpact on the succession planning process. This area of family business hasreceived some attention. For instance, through interviews with members of 18family businesses, Dumas (1989) found that females were “invisible succes-sors.” Other researchers (e.g., Barnes, 1988; Iannarelli,1992) have showed thatin family business, there are more men holding leadership positions thanwomen. We feel this area can be further developed by examining the successionplanning process from both perspectives (i.e., successor and owner/manager) Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
  22. 22. Succession Planning in Family Business: The Impact of Owner Gender 393and incorporating the influence of gender. Hence, future research may lead toa richer understanding of the mechanisms and the processes that are involvedin succession planning and the family business. The results of this study clearly demonstrate that gender plays a role insuccession planning. Ignoring gender, as previous studies have done, deniesthe richness and complexity of the succession process. This study has illumi-nated some key elements useful in developing models of succession particularto male- and female-led family businesses. Clearly, caution should be exer-cised when extending our results beyond the context of family businesses.However, all businesses face the problem of survival, and therefore, to theextent that we have articulated processes pertinent to succession issues, allbusinesses may benefit.ReferencesAldrich, H. E. (1989). Networking among women entrepreneurs. In O. Hagan, C. Rivchum, & D.L. Sexton (Eds.), Women-owned businesses (pp. 13–132). New York: Praeger.Aldrich, H. E., & Liou, N. (1996). The invisible [woman] entrepreneurs: Lack of at- tention to women owners in the academic, business and popular press. A paper pre- sented to the Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management, Cincin- nati, OH.Applegate, J. (1994). Keep your firm in the family. Money, 23, 88–91.Astrachan, J. H., & Kolenko, T. (1994). A neglected factor explaining family business success: Human resource practices. Family Business Review, 7(3), 251–262.Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Barach, J. A. (1984). Is there a cure for the paralyzed family board? Sloan Management Review, 26(1), 3–12.Barnes, L. B. (1988). Incongruent hierarchies: Daughters and younger sons as CEOs. Family Business Review, 1(1), 9–21.Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York: Free Press.Beckhard, R., & Dyer, W. G. (1983). Managing continuity in the family-owned busi- ness. Organizational Dynamics, 12(1), 5–12.Bourgeois, L. J., & Singh, J. V. (1983). Organizational slack and political behavior within top management groups. Academy of Management Proceedings, 43–49.Bowen, D., & Hisrich, D. (1986). The female entrepreneur: A career development perspective. Academy of Management Review, 11, 219–224.Brady, G. F., & Helmich, D. C. (1984). Executive succession. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Carlsson, G., & Karlsson, K. (1970). Age, cohorts and the generation of generations. American Sociological Review, 35, 710–718.Chaganti, R., Chaganti, R., & Malone, S. (1991). High performance strategies for entre- preneurial companies: Research findings from over 500 firms. New York: Quorum Books.Chow, G. C. (1960). Equality between sets of coefficients in two linear regressions. Econometrica, 28, 591–604.Christensen, C. R. (1953). Management succession in small and growing enterprises. Bos- ton: Harvard University Press.Cromie, S., & Hayes, J. (1988). Towards a typology of female entrepreneurs. Sociologi- cal Review, 36, 87–113. Downloaded from at SAGE Publications on May 21, 2009
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