By Claire West

Experian research reveals the changing face of Britain’s boardrooms in 2007

Women are entering Britain’s boardrooms in increasing numbers and starting to change the face of business, according to the latest analysis of Britain’s 2.83 million directors by Experian[reg], the global information services company.

Analysis of Experian’s National Business Database for the Female Directors Report 2007 has found that, for the first time, the number of female directorships in Britain has broken through the one million mark (1,008,343) and well over one quarter (28 per cent) of directors in the UK are now female.

The number of female directorships is also growing at a faster rate than male directorships. Between 2006 and 2007, the number of board positions held by women grew by 10.5 per cent compared to a 9 per cent for men.

The research also found that female directors under the age of 30 are closest to reaching parity in numbers in the boardroom, while Property Management and the caring professions — Education, Health and Social work — are the industry sectors in which women are making the greatest impact. Geographically, Wales and the South West have the highest proportions of female directors, while for towns and cities — Truro, tops the league.

Jo Howard, Marketing Director of Experian’s Business Information division, commented: “Our latest report shows that women are making steady progress in the boardroom and in some sectors, cities and age groups they are starting to build up a real momentum. Breaking through the one million barrier is a great achievement, whilst the cracks that are visible in the glass ceilings of larger organisations demonstrate the positive contribution women are making to British business at all levels.”

Younger women lead the way to the boardroom

As far a gender differences go, when it comes to gaining parity in numbers in the boardroom, it’s the young who are leading the way. Female directors aged between 18 and 29 make up over 27 per cent (56,493) of the total director population in this age bracket, higher than any other group of normal working age. Overall 5.6 per cent of all female directors are under 30, compared to 4.5 per cent of men.

Women directors gain a foothold in older businesses, and cracks are appearing in the glass ceiling

While a glass ceiling remains in the very largest organisations, with women accounting for only 12 per cent (7,603) of directors in businesses with more than 250 employees and 11 per cent (9,582) in organisations with a turnover of £22.8million or more, there are signs that cracks are appearing in it. Since 2005, 1,496 more women have become directors within organisations employing more than 250 people, an increase of nearly 25 per cent.

And in contrast to a perceived image as traditional and male dominated, Experian’s research suggests an increased tendency for older, more established businesses to appoint female directors. Female directors are twice as likely to be found in the boardrooms of businesses that have been established for more than 14 years compared to younger companies and 75 per cent more likely to be found in businesses that have been in existence for more than 30 years.

A focus on the caring professions; but women are also climbing the property ladder

Women are closest to matching men in the boardroom in Residential Property Management, Health and Social Work and Education. Female directors make up nearly 40 per cent of all directors in Residential Property Management, representing over 70,000 directors in number. Meanwhile, there are just 1.7 times more male directors than female in Education and only 1.6 times more in Health and Social Work, with women representing 38 and 37 per cent of the total director populations in these sectors. Breaking down the analysis further reveals that women have almost achieved level terms in Primary Education. Over 47 per cent of directors in this field are female.

At the other end of the scale, however it’s clear that some industries remain male dominated. As with Experian’s 2006 report, it is the Utilities sector which produces the least female directors. Women make up just 11 per cent of the total director population in this sector and are outnumbered by men by over eight to one.

Women lead the way in the South West, Wales and Truro

Looking at the regional breakdown, the South West and Wales are outperforming other regions in terms of the proportion of female directors. Over 25 per cent of all directors in Wales are female, while women make up over 26 per cent of all directors in the South West.

In 2007, female directors are most likely to be found in numbers alone in London (177,929), Birmingham (18,355), Bristol (15,406), Glasgow (13,639) and Manchester (13,057). Of this top tier, it’s Britain’s second city which has once again seen the biggest growth in the number of female directors between 2006 and 2007 with a 19 per cent increase (22 per cent from 2005 to 2006). Only Inverness and Chester experienced a bigger growth rate than this (both over 21 per cent) and together these three towns accounted for almost 10 per cent of all new female directors across the whole of the UK.

But it’s the large provincial towns where female directors are making the most impact. Truro comes closest to having equal numbers of men and women in the boardroom. Almost 30 per cent of directors of businesses based in Truro are female. Wells and Hereford follow close behind with females making up 28 per cent of the director population in each case. Armagh occupies fourth position and Bath is in fifth place with 2.5 male directors for every female. This means that four out of five of the top slots are occupied by cities in the South West.

At the bottom of the league comes Aberdeen, where only 18 per cent of directors are female, only slightly bettered by Manchester and Leeds (both with 19 per cent) and Hull (20 per cent).

Erika Watson, Chief Executive Officer of Prowess, the UK voice for women’s enterprise commented: “It is fantastic to see an increase in the number of female directors. Female leaders make great innovators, adopt a collaborative approach to management and invest in staff development — leading to highly successful businesses. Too many companies are still missing out on the impact diverse leadership can have on their bottom line, but this report shows that we are making progress.”

Experian’s National Business Database on which the female director analysis was undertaken is one of the most comprehensive B2B marketing data sources in the UK. It contains a unique combination of independent and trusted data sources, including Yellow Pages, Thomson, Experian and Companies House information to provide five million business records and over two million mailable business records for direct marketing purposes.