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AbstractThis report summarises a research project commissioned by the Midlands Engine on women in business leadership in the Midlands. Prior research has shown that women are under-represented at executive and board levels and less likely than men to be involved in entrepreneurship (Rose, 2019; Vinnicombe et al., 2021). These studies also advocated that more diverse leadership and greater inclusivity leads to significant business and societal benefits. This research focuses on women on boards and women-owned business leadership in the East and West Midlands to provide a much-needed regional perspective on this phenomenon. The research, undertaken by the University of Wolverhampton, aimed to understand better the current representation of women on boards and women-owned businesses in the Midlands region, identify barriers to gender diversity and inclusivity, and provide recommendations to promote gender diversity in leadership. Women hold 15.8% of directorships in the top 350 public and private companies in the Midlands, lower than the UK’s large public companies. Moreover, women account for only 7.8% of executive directorships in the Midlands’ top 350 companies compared to 13.7% and 11.3% in FTSE100 and FTSE250 companies, respectively. Among the Midlands top 350 companies, 169 have exclusively male boards (48%). In addition, women both lead and own a lower percentage of small businesses in the Midlands than in most England regions. Data collected through interviews with stakeholders show that in addition to well-documented gender biases, the presence of historically male-dominated industries and a prevalence of cultural stereotypes have impeded progress towards greater diversity and inclusivity in the Midlands. Nevertheless, many industry leaders in the Midlands are championing women’s inclusion within their organisations and leadership teams by creating platforms for representation, advocating role models and supporting flexible working. The report identifies examples where such actions resulted in a critical mass of women in the boardroom. Yet without effective interventions on a wider scale, the barriers identified can significantly inhibit the growth of women-led businesses, impede greater diversity in leadership positions in the region and, therefore, make it challenging to achieve the goal of gender diversity and inclusivity. The findings lead to proposals for interventions to promote women into leadership at a range of scales: at the individual level, such as tackling biases and allyship; at the organisational level, such as flexible working hours and targets towards gender balance, and; at the regional level, such as support networks and targeted resources.
CitationMahmood, S., Eke, P., Mpofu, T., Machold, S. (2022) Women in Business Leadership in the Midlands, University of Wolverhampton, UK.
PublisherThe University of Wolverhampton
DescriptionA research report produced by the University of Wolverhampton and Midlands Engine.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/