Give women all the credit

Next time you bag a new client firm, check there's some women on the board - or you might not get paid.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to research from credit-check company Creditsafe, companies with male-only boards take an average of 58.5 days to pay their bills. That’s nearly twice as long as those that only have female directors, where the average is 29.9 days.  And for a mixed boardroom – with both male and female directors – the average is only slightly higher, at 30.41 days. So the influence of the fairer sex is clear: even a small representation at the top table seems to make a company a better bill-payer.

Of course, not everyone would agree that this is an admirable trait. Private equity firms, for example, often deliberately look to increase ‘creditor days’ when they buy a company – after all, keeping money in the bank for longer is better for cashflow. So you could argue that these female-only boards are just being a bit too nice about the whole thing. Perhaps their male counterparts are just a bit more hard-nosed and commercial?

Except that the research also showed that female boards are much better at collecting debts than their male counterparts. On average, their debts remain outstanding for 16.8 days, while their male-only counterparts average 33.9 days – so the latter have to wait twice as long to get their money. Many small business go bust because they can’t collect their cheques in time to pay the bills (as many as a quarter, according to Creditsafe) – so this is not to be sniffed at.

Creditsafe UK MD Simon Camilleri said the results showed that ‘female business directors are proving their financial acumen’. It certainly looks like another good argument to get more women on FTSE 100 boards – they currently account for just 11% of directorships, according to the Cranfield School of Management, with 25% of companies employing none at all (so good luck getting cash out of that lot).

Unfortunately there was no theory as to why there’s such a big discrepancy. Are men just much lazier? Are women much better at nagging people until they get their own way? Or is it a freakish statistical anomaly manufactured to publicise a credit-checking company? We may never know...

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