By Jonathan Davies

Female business owners are more likely to hire new staff than their male counterparts this year, according to research by Direct Line for Business.

The research found that a third of female business owners surveyed intend to recruit new members of staff in 2014, compared with just 26% of male business owners.

The debate surrounding women in business hit new heights last week when research showed that 40% of managers would rather hire a man in his 20-30s than a woman of childbearing age to avoid dealing with maternity leave.

Direct Line for Business also said that small businesses are set to create 1.9 million new jobs this year; 400,000 of which will be the first to be hired by home-based businesses.

London businesses are the most active in their recruitment intentions. Forty percent of small firms in the capital are expecting to hire new staff in 2014. The South West was placed second with 35% of businesses looking to recruit and 31% of North West firms adding to their workforce this year.

Jasvinder Gakhal, head of Direct Line for Business, said: "Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, employing millions of people, and our research shows that they are set to contribute significantly this year.

"With positive signs of economic growth, many businesses will want to take advantage by expanding— often by increasing headcount."

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