Dragons' Den: Battles of the Sexes


It's all change in the Den next season as the long-running show not only welcomes three new dragons, but also takes up residence in a different studio - the new Space Project production hub in Manchester. The purpose-built set will be the perfect backdrop to launch three fresh faces from the world of business, who replace Kelly Hoppen, Piers Linney and long-time favourite Duncan Bannatyne.

Only Peter Jones remains from the original Dragons' Den line-up, alongside Deborah Meaden, who joined the show in series three. The newbies represent a wide range of business interests, from Moonpig.com founder Nick Jenkins to restaurant guru Sarah Willingham. The third addition, Touker Suleyman, is the owner of fashion brand Hawes & Curtis and womenswear label, Ghost.

He's looking forward to meeting wannabe entrepreneurs, insisting: "I want to support people with the guts to pursue their dreams and provide the financial backing, opportunities and support that will ease their path to success."Of course, Nick Jenkins already has plenty of experience with start-ups, having invested in many from the technology and internet retail space since selling Moonpig.com for £120 million in 2011. Sarah, meanwhile - the only new female fronting the show - made her money from The Bombay Bicycle Club, turning it into the largest and most successful Indian restaurant chain after taking it over in 2003.

The panel is now a 3:2 split of male and female dragons, and this post will examine exactly what the gender ratio means for budding business people trying to secure investment. It's worth bearing in mind that the show started off with just one woman - Rachel Elnaugh - but real efforts have been made to redress this imbalance in the last four series.  

Top male and female investors

  Rachel Elnaugh - the original dragon to bring girl power to the group - is also our leading lady when it comes to money invested per episode. She averages £31,738 but, although this sounds a lot, she's only lies fourth in our table of top investors overall. It's Theo Paphitis who blazes a trail with £41,321 - more than any other dragon, male or female.

At the other end of the scale sits Kelly Hoppen. The design queen showed she was more style than substance by investing just £10,365 per episode. In comparison, the male dragon with the lowest investment stats was Simon Woodroffe, who put in an average of £16,265 per episode.

Investment comparisons male v female

  Individually then, women are not the biggest investors. As the above shows, if we consider the amount of money invested per episode, we won’t find any woman in the top three places. In fact, two out of four women are in the bottom half of the table.

On average, male dragons invest £33,182 per episode while female dragons lag behind on just £25,973.

However, it's not all bad news for female dragons because there are clear signs that change is afoot. Our bar chart show the total investments per series divided into male and female input. Although things got off to a rough start (in series two, for example, female investments made up less than 10% of the series total), there has been a marked increase in spending since Deborah Meaden joined in series three. However, the most heartening stats come much later in the show's life, when the addition of an extra woman on the panel started to bring parity of representation - and spending.

Although we only have data for the first half of series 12 (the latest series to air on our TVs) these early figures point to a 50/50 split of male and female investments - finally!

Final word

  Hats off to Dragons' Den then, for starting to achieve a gender equality that is still the stuff of distant dreams in the real world of business. Of course, the number of women in top business positions is growing year on year, but this percentage is still worryingly low. In FTSE 100 companies, for example, only 23.5% of board members - less than a quarter - are currently women. Similarly, if we take Forbes' world's billionaires list, we'll only find 11 women in the top 100 positions. Let's hope the inspiring trend displayed on our favourite small screen business show starts to inform the bigger picture soon.

dragons den infographic

dragons den infographic

In the meantime we've created an infographic which highlights the key takeaways from this post.  

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