Prof Maura McAdam Navigating family business

The Curious Professor Giving Women Entrepreneurs A Voice

Maura McAdam is Professor of Management at DCU Business School and she is a feminist researcher. She says she is dedicated to honoring the voices of her participants, the idea of giving voice and honoring the voices of women who often are slow to take the credit for their achievements. “These are voices that so often have not been heard.”

Family Business

She is often surprised at how women sometimes minimise their role in a family business. They can say things ‘you mean like my wee business’.

Navigating entrepreneurship or leading a family business is often new territory for women in a family business especially where traditionally the first son would have been seen as the one most likely to take over.

In a family business there needs be time and effort devoted to succession planning Prof McAdam says. “In the Centre for Family Business in DCU we say succession is a process not an event so you need to start early. You need to start those conversations”. When you are going against cultural norms this is especially the case.

Women Navigating The Tech World

Prof Maura McAdam is conducting research with women leading businesses through her work in DCU as part of Genre Project an Irish Research Council Project Gender Net initiative which is looking at women’s lived experience in high tech comparing Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Israel. They are half way through and have interviewed 100 entrepreneurs, VCs, business angels and incubator  managers. They are motivated to capture the women’s lived experience. ‘It’s about the masculine norm of technology and looking at the strategies women adopt to be seen as legitimate.’ Prof McAdam finds that just by asking questions of the women and how they navigate going to meetings, who they bring with them, even they way they dress, starts a reflective journey for these women. It starts a process of reflection and thinking about strategies they have often adapted, maybe dressing  in a certain way or taking their dad with them to a meeting.’

Dressing Down for Credibility

“Dress has show up in my research. In tech when women were starting off, being seen as a legitimate entrepreneurs, they would dress down and maybe hide their femininity. Dress is sometimes used to gain credibility or to stand out.”

McAdam says its a constant juggling effort that women find themselves doing. “There are conflicting social roles in business, I am supposed to be the leader, the daughter and the wife. Research is looking at all the juggling that is involved for women and knowing when to play them”


Confidence for women in business is about self efficacy Maura McAdam says. It is about thinking ‘Can I do it, do I have what it takes to do this.’ It is really important to work on confidence she believes. Negative thinking can stop women going forward in entrepreneurship.

Ally ship – You Need A Tribe

Prof McAdam believes we all need our tribe around us. We are not born having the right people around us. We need others with similar experience to share our vulnerability with and to build up our confidence. It is good to have like minded people around us, McAdam believes. Women are great at networking and connecting women with other useful contacts or sharing their experience and useful learning in entrepreneurship and it can be a lonely journey otherwise.

As well as networking McAdam believes it is important to mentor others and to important to mentor both men and women.

Advice to Women In Technology

Women In Technology Build your tribe your network, find out about suppliers VCs getting yourself known in that space or the subsector of technology that you are involved in.

There are plenty of resources for entrepreneurs with training courses and accelerator programmes. ‘Grab with both hands and avail of all supports.’

Networks are important for social networks. You may have left a large organisation so to be able to go to event where you are surrounded by other women in a similar situation to you. Women help each other. They can introduce you to others and be supportive.

In the podcast Prof Maura McAdam talks about cyber feminism, digital entrepreneurship and navigating the workplace in your own way.

Pearls of Wisdom

Family Business Researcher and Expert.
  1. Don’t wait for permission, don’t wait until I’ve got the masters or 10 years experience, just do it.
  2. Do not be afraid to say I am an entrepreneur. I have been to events where very successful women say ‘oh you mean my wee business or my project. Claim it!
  3. Level up, For women who want to advance in their management career Maura says level up, work to the job, the next level. You need to aim high if you want to achieve. Whatever job you are doing, start thinking about the job the next level up.
  4. Morning Matters When I wake up in the morning I could go a hundred miles an hour and I want to do the emails, etc so I have had to slow myself down. I find when I do my meditation, which it has helped my creativity. Align to your to values. Say to yourself who do I want to show up as today.
  5. Send the elevator back down, this idea of helping younger women and early career researchers. It’s my responsibility to help others both male and female early career academics.

Prof McAdam also shares her financial advice she got from her dad which is priceless. She also talks about sustainability and her own ‘go to music’ choice in the podcast. Have a listen it will be time well spent.

Angela Mezzetti
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