Shannon Szabados (pictured) recently became the first female to play in the Southern Professional Hockey league (for the Columbus Cottonmouths) and was the first woman to play in the Western Hockey League in 2002 at age 16. She also won two gold medals goaltending for the Canadian women’s hockey team, most recently in Sochi. Click here for the full NY Times article.

While one might imagine that her male teammates might give her a hard time and resist the inclusion of women, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, her new male teammates had actively recruited her. They lobbied their coach and told him how great she played with three of them on the men’s team at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (where she was also the first woman player.) They did not recruit her because she is a woman; they did so because she is an amazing goaltender and they wanted to win.

Fortunately, the family business world is trending in the same direction and much faster than the non-family business environment. According to a survey done in 2007 by Mass Mutual, Kennesaw State University and the Family Firm Institute, 24% of family businesses had a female CEO or President – an almost five-fold increase since 1997. In Fortune 1000 firms in 2007, only 2.5 percent of Fortune 1,000 firms were led by women (Fortune Magazine, April 30, 2007.)

The role of women in society and business is changing – and for the better. For far too long women were held back by cultural practices and a general lack of appreciation by the male dominated business world. The Millennial generation is the most open-minded yet when it comes to gender (as well as all forms of diversity). Millenials thrive in socially diverse environments and they tend to insist on it. Much potential was lost as sisters watched their brothers get opportunities for which they were never considered.

You do not need to follow the trend because it is best for all of us (you may or may not agree it is).

Follow the trend because you want to win.

What is the lesson?

Enterprising Families:

The days of being blind to the business potential of wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Women are an amazing resource for business and society at large and their development should be considered for any enterprise. Even in traditionally male-dominated fields like construction women are entering, contributing and leading culture change toward a more collaborative team model.

Advisors to Enterprising Families:

Make your firms and your services enlightened toward and respectful of the women involved in your client families. I frequently hear stories from women members of my client families about feeling disrespected or, worse, ignored by professional advisors. Welcome and appreciate them, keep an eye out for less evolved family firms and let them know that they may be missing significant opportunity.