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Boards of directors and gender diversity in UK companies

Lynn M. Martin (Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Izzy Warren‐Smith (Harper Adams University College, Newport, UK)
Jonathan M. Scott (Queen's University Management School, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Stephen Roper (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 9 May 2008




This paper is an exploratory quantitative study aimed at providing the first overview of the incidence of female directors in UK companies, mapped against types of firms. It provides a unique quantitative perspective on the types of companies with boards on which female directors serve.


A quantitative analysis of a newly constructed database based on data for all UK companies (using Companies House Financial Analysis Made Easy data) was carried out to explore overall data for board membership related to gender, resulting in a new typology to describe firms with female directors.


The data supports earlier partial studies suggesting male dominance continues at senior levels. Although female directors represented one in four directors in UK firms, most companies remain male dominated. Women directors are generally found in smaller firms and only one in 226 of larger firms have a majority of female directors. The service sector remains the main focus for female firms, both business services and other services.

Research limitations/implications

The study suggests that at the rate of progress achieved over the 2003‐2005 period, it will be the year 2225 before gender balance in company directorships is achieved in the UK. The study was based on Companies House data, where gender is a self‐reported variable; therefore, considerable work had to be done to identify the gender of directors in order to build the database. This is a limitation for others trying to assess female board membership. The study did not attempt to explain why these levels of female participation are observed – this is a necessary second step following this first analysis of the incidence of women on boards.


The data provides the first comprehensive picture of the senior positions of women across UK businesses as it relates to their positions on the boards of companies.



Martin, L.M., Warren‐Smith, I., Scott, J.M. and Roper, S. (2008), "Boards of directors and gender diversity in UK companies", Gender in Management, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 194-208.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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