Today I came across this working paper - Efficiency of Female Leaders in Family and Non-Family Firms by Per-Olof Bjuggren, Louise Nordström and Johanna Palmberg - that draws a distinction between family-owned and non-family owned firms when looking at the performance effects of female leadership. In their conclusion the authors write,
Our study shows that female leadership is more common in family than non-family corporations. This female leadership has also a strong positive impact on performance in family firms while the performance impact is surprisingly strongly negative in non-family firms.Insofar as Makhlouf's comments were about non-family owned firms, and most large firms are of this form, then the above comment doesn't offer much support for his claim. When considering family-owned firms however, he may be on stronger ground.
The paper's abstract reads:
Female leadership is an expanding area of research. It is a popular topic discussed frequently in both academia and in the popular press. Despite this, comparative studies of the impact of female leadership on firm level performance between family and non-family firms are rare. The present study has the ambition to fill this gap. This paper investigates female leadership in family firms and how it affects firm profitability. A unique database of ownership and leadership in private Swedish firms makes it possible to analyze difference in firm performance due to female leadership in family and non-family firms. Even though much has been written regarding the role of women in family firms we do not know so much about how female leadership in family firms affect the profitability of the firm. The analysis indicates that female leadership makes much more of a positive difference for performance in family firms. The effect is negative in non-family firms.This leaves open the question as to what drives the difference in leadership performance between the two types of firms.