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More female directors than ever are on the rise, but women surprisingly earn less than men, the more the sexes share the same occupation.

Although the labour market is made up to nearly 50 per cent of women, senior management levels are only to 29 per cent female. In 2012, equality among business leaders was a recurring point of discussion - but has anything changed?

Indeed, between 2007 and 2012, 240,000 more female directors have been appointed.

A study by Experian revealed that the number of female directors has increased to outstrip men by 24 per cent. Upon examining figures by company size, SMEs are better at narrowing the gap between male and female, more likely than large companies to have female directors. Large companies are following suite; the crack between the two is narrowing. In 2007, 48 per cent of small companies had at least one female director compared to 33 per cent of large companies. In 2012, 50 per cent of small companies had female directors compared to 40 per cent of large companies.

Max Firth, managing director for Experian’s Business Information Services division, said: “Smaller companies are clearly the driving force for female directors, but our research shows that larger companies’ efforts to increase the number of female directors has made a significant difference over the past five years.”

Startup businesses have also been important in bolstering the number of female directors employed over this period. A third of the 1.4m businesses that started up since 2007 have one or more female directors.

“And let’s not forget the contribution made by female entrepreneurs, with many starting up their own companies to manage work/life balance and fit with family commitments, without whom the number of female directors would be considerably lower,” Firth continued.

However, the battle of balanced payment between the sexes still commences.

Researchers from universities in Canada and Warwick, UK found that women earn less money than men the more the sexes share the same occupations. The surprising results were attributed to the fact that when there are few men in an occupation, women have the chance to get to the top and earn more. Where there are equal numbers of men and women working together, men tend to dominate the high-paying jobs.

Professor Robert Blackburn of the University of Cambridge, Dr Girts Racko of Warwick Business School, and Dr Jennifer Jarman of Lakehead, used statistics for each country on the proportion of women and men in each occupation, and the overall average gap in pay. They correlated these to show the relationship between workplace segregation of the sexes and the gap in their pay.

“Higher overall segregation tends to reduce male advantage and improve the position of women,” the researchers say in Sociology journal. “The greater the degree of overall segregation, the less the possibility exists for discrimination against women and so there is more scope for women to develop progressive careers. For instance, within nursing men disproportionately fill the senior positions...but the fewer the number of male nurses, the more the senior positions must be filled by women.

Out of the 20 countries researched, the UK was one of them, with a higher than average inequality in pay.

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