More women in the boardroom – but still a long way to go

May 27 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The number of female company directors in Britain is steadily rising. But new figures show that they are concentrated in traditional female industries such as health and social services and remain severely under-represented in other sectors such as finance.

An analysis of more than 3.7 million company directors for information services firm Experian has found that women make up almost a quarter (23 per cent) of all directors in the UK and are growing in number.

Female directors are also marginally more likely to be involved in profit-making businesses – 57.7 per cent of all female directors are involved in companies that are making a profit, compared to 55.7 per cent of male directors.

However, overall, female directors are still outnumbered in Britain's boardroom, with 3.4 male directors to every one female director.

But the figures also reveal that female directors are concentrated in smaller firms and in certain sectors, notably in companies relating to private households, health & social work and education.

In many other industries, the glass ceiling remains a barrier. In the energy sector, for example, male directors where they outnumber women by eight to one.

Female directors also tend to be in charge of small to medium sized businesses employing up to fifty personnel while men continue to control large corporations.

Only 6,107 women are directors of companies employing more than 250 personnel compared to 51,623 men. Female directors are also more likely to run companies defined as small by turnover (up to £5.6million per annum).

Last year's Female FTSE Report, published by Cranfield School of Management, showed that a third of Britain's leading companies still have no women on their boards even though the number of women being appointed to FTSE 100 boardrooms has doubled over the past two years.

Meanwhile, the Experian research suggests that one reason that the overall number of women in Britain's boardrooms is growing is that women focus on their careers earlier in life than men.

The proportion of women directors in the 18 to 29 age range is higher than the proportion of male directors, with female in this range accounting for 5.4 per cent of all women directors compared with 3.9 per cent of male directors.

Men, overall, however, still outnumber female directors by 2.5 to one within this age band.

Regionally, the highest ratio of female to male directors is in the South West of England (2.9 male directors to every female), Northern Ireland and Wales.

London – with the lion's share of large PLCs and financial companies – has the most women directors numerically but the lowest ratio of female to male directors at 3.8 male directors to every one female director.