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Just over a third of UK businesses have women directors but proportion far higher for larger firm

According to Procorre’s analysis of information lodged with Companies House, 57.4% of the largest firms (those with &pound1billion-plus turnovers) have at least one female director on the Board.

This drops to 35% in SMEs with turnovers between &pound1m and &pound25.9m**, and 34.7% in businesses with turnovers of &pound100,000-&pound1m, which make up the vast majority of the total.

Sophie Sarrat, relationship manager at Procorre, comments, “These findings highlight that while some companies are making great progress, there is still some way to go towards achieving more diverse boards at the highest level in UK business.

“Larger companies are leading the way, but smaller and medium-sized firms are struggling far more to retain and develop female talent through to directorship level or to achieve diversity in their selection of external Board candidates.

“Smaller companies realise that they could gain a huge amount from conscious efforts to nurture more female talent. However, the reality is that they often lack the resources and capacity that larger companies have to promote and develop women effectively through the pipeline, and their smaller boards allow less scope for diversity.

“While bigger firms are more likely to have HR departments and mentoring schemes dedicated to ensuring those with the potential to reach the top are given the opportunity and support they need to do so, that’s a luxury many SMEs can’t afford. It’s often the case that the responsibility for staff career development in small firms falls on just one or two individuals who also tend to be wearing a lot of other hats.

“For the same reason, smaller businesses are less likely to have formal internal appraisal processes. Given that recent studies have suggested that women are less likely to assume they are doing a good job, implementing a formal appraisal structure might help give women in SMEs the confidence they need to put themselves forward.”

She adds, “Larger firms are also more likely than SMEs to be able to offer more generous maternity provisions over and above the statutory minimum and to find it easier than small companies to accommodate flexible working. Both of which can really help to encourage more working mothers to continue to pursue their careers, so they can gain the experience and skills they need ultimately to make it all the way to the top.

“As we approach May’s general election, the debate over childcare provision, in terms of how much and what kind of support should be provided and how it should be paid for, is likely to continue to rage.” 

* Excluding businesses with turnovers of &pound0-&pound100,000

**Based on the limit for an SME as defined by the Companies Act 2006.

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