Almost half of all South East companies now have a female director, new research reveals.

Creditsafe's Women in Business report shows that 40 per cent of the 677,000 firms in the South East have female representation at the directorial level.

The South West leads the table of UK regions with 44 per cent of female directors, with the East Midlands and Scotland close behind at 39 per cent.

Despite these figures, the data suggests a wide gap is still present in terms of gender equality in business leadership.

London and the North West are lagging behind with the lowest female representation rates of 33 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively.

In 2023, companies with a female director on the board increased by seven per cent in the UK compared to 2019.

Drew Fahiya, Creditsafe’s data director, said: "Our latest report shows that women are making steady progress in the boardroom, and in some regions and sectors they are starting to build up a real momentum.

"The South West is setting a benchmark in female entrepreneurship, but other regions, including the South East, are beginning to showcase the significant impact women have on British business at various levels.

"Though it's not possible to prove that women are better at running businesses over men, there's mounting evidence suggesting that companies with female board members experience advantages such as heightened profitability and reduced failure rates".