New report reveals lack of women at top levels in Midlands businesses

Date posted: March 8, 2022

Today [8 March], Midlands Engine Observatory releases a new report in conjunction with the University of Wolverhampton: Women in Business Leadership in the Midlands. The report details barriers to success for female business leaders, as well as providing recommendations to redress existing disparities.

Released on International Women’s Day, key findings include:

  • Women hold 15.8% of directorships in the top 350 public and private companies in the Midlands, which is lower than in the UK’s large public companies.
  • Women hold only 7.8% of executive directorships in the Midlands largest 350 companies, compared to 13.7% and 11.3% in FTSE100 and FTSE250 companies respectively.
  • Amongst the Midlands350, there are 169 companies with male-only boards which equates to 48% of the companies.
  • Women-led businesses are least prevalent in the East and West Midlands. Only 17% of all UK small businesses are women led, and only 1.4% and 1.2% of these are in the West and East Midlands respectively, which is a lower proportion than the rest of England.

In keeping with this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #BreakTheBias, the report details how women in the Midlands, in a microcosm of national trends, face a series of barriers to success in business. These includes masculine work cultures and exclusionary practices, especially in manufacturing companies.

Testimonies from female business leaders also point towards negative perceptions of flexible working and unconscious bias, including stereotyping, as further obstacles that predominantly or exclusively affect women over men.

The report gives recommended interventions to promote women in leadership, including: supporting cultural mindset changes within companies, celebrating role models, effectively sharing success stories, supporting flexible working hours, supporting the promotion of women based on achievements and not hours worked, and targeted funding, training and support networks.

The report builds on earlier work by the West Midlands Leadership Commission in 2018 to develop an up-to-date and comprehensive picture of women leadership in the Midlands, taking into account intra-regional variations, the national context, and firm-specific characteristics.

Rachael Greenwood, Executive Director, Midlands Engine, said:  

“With a clear focus on accelerating economic growth and prosperity for our communities and businesses, Midlands Engine partners understand that diversity and inclusion must be embedded in every aspect of our work.

“If we take on these recommendations as a baseline, as an undisputed foundation, then there is profound potential to build from there and make the Midlands a beacon and a champion for the benefits of supporting women in business.”

Professor Silke Machold, PhD, Dean of Research and Professor of Corporate Governance at the University of Wolverhampton, said:

“This report demonstrates how women in the Midlands are under-represented in boardrooms and executive teams, and that women are less likely than men to lead or own businesses.

“Progress continues to be made, and this research provides a series of recommendations at an individual, organisational and regional level to help promote women into leadership, and reap the social and economic benefits that equality will bring.”

Dr Samia Mahmood, Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Finance at Wolverhampton Business School, said:

“Achieving greater gender diversity in business leadership and making workplaces more inclusive is both a social and a business matter. It’s really great to see that the Midlands Engine and its stakeholders support this important work and are committed to make a change.”

Download the report:


Keep Updated

Latest News & Events

Openreach at work 01


May 28 2024

Openreach’s broadband upgrade set to benefit communities in the Midlands

Communities across the Midlands are set to benefit from Openreach’s huge broadband upgrade with full fibre heading to over 90 towns in the region.

Read more
ESAIF launch at UKREiiF

Economic Opportunities

May 28 2024

D2N2 LEP Chair, Elizabeth Fagan, launches £8m Early Stage Angel Investment Fund at UKREiiF

D2N2 LEP Chair Elizabeth Fagan announced the launch of D2N2 LEP’s Early Stage Angel Investment Fund at the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF) in Leeds (21 - 23 May).

Read more
East Midlands Freeport Green Corridors


May 23 2024

Freeport East and East Midlands Freeport Sign Green Freight Corridor Initiative

Freeport East and East Midlands Freeport have announced a new partnership to support a green freight corridor that will help decarbonise transport and drive enhanced skills and employment initiatives along the length of one of the UK’s most important transportation routes.

Read more
An electric vehicle charging

Subscribe to Midlands Matters, the newsletter of the Midlands Engine