Although it was almost unheard of just a few decades ago, it is predicted that one in three family businesses will soon be headed by a woman.

father and daughter at business

The trend toward daughters being named to take over the family business has been growing steadily over recent years, studies by and other groups show.

As family businesses struggle to survive into the next generation – only one-third make it to the second generation and 15 percent to the third – current leadership struggles to find the right successor, often a major challenge as younger family members either aren’t interested in running the family business or want to take it in an entirely different direction.

While business owners historically have leaned toward leaving the family business in the hands of a son – perhaps for fear daughters will leave to raise a family – desire, leadership ability and smarts have become more important than gender in family businesses today. Another factor is that the smaller families of today often do not include a son.

Family-owned business experts cite a number of advantages to passing on the family business to a daughter. While sons are often anxious to take over and implement their vision, daughters tend to enjoy sharing responsibilities and working with their fathers. And there’s usually a different, less competitive, interaction between fathers and daughters than fathers and sons, experts say.

Family businesses that are led by women have been shown to experience greater family loyalty and pride in the business and have a 40 percent lower rate of family member attrition, according to studies by Babson College.

A key for parents who want to see their business thrive is to begin preparing potential successors early in life – both sons and daughters.

Consider these three steps to begin training the successor to your company:

1. Expose your children to the business at an early age, but don’t pressure them Take your children to work with you, and let them do small tasks that they find fun. As they get older, let them have more responsibility. See who shows the most promise.

2. Be sure they get the right education and experience Guide your potential successor to take the business courses or specialized training they will need to run your business. Encourage them to work at other companies to gain the broadest spectrum of experience possible.

3. Show support of your successor The family member who is the current CEO should show ongoing support as a mentor and advocate for the child that will eventually take over the reins – be it a son or a daughter.