Birmingham Chamber of Commerce is set to appoint its first female president in its 223-year history when Bridget Blow succeeds in 2008.

Ms Blow, who was previously chief executive of IT firm ITNET, was appointed vice-president yesterday. She will support the work of John Crabtree, the former senior partner of Wragge & Co, who was appointed president yesterday.

She said: "This is good news for women who make up half of the potential workforce and who are increasingly setting up businesses themselves.

"It is a good move by the chamber to show these women they are represented."

Mr Crabtree has vowed to fight the corner of small businesses which are too often overlooked in the city.

He also defended the 'One Voice' campaign which has been accused of stifling debate and said his year in office would be marked by transparency.

Mr Crabtree, aged 57, will be followed next year by Rod Ackrill, chairman of property developers Chase Midland, before Ms Blow becomes president.

Mr Crabtree said he would also be championing the creative industries, which he knew about from his post as chairman of the Hippodrome.

He said: "People are always terrified of making mistakes, but we will be trying to help people put their heads above the parapet.

"I think the One Voice campaign has been slightly misunderstood. It is not an attempt to cloak different views and getting people to agree things behind closed doors, far from it.

"I am a great believer in transparency. But we are trying to get people to concentrate on what Birmingham and the Midlands needs.

"You can do this a lot better if you are going in the same direction. One Voice is not about telling people to shut up, but asking people to give up a bit of their own sovereignty, a bit of their own agenda."

Mr Crabtree said he was aware from personal experience of the troubles facing small business, especially with red tape and regulation.

His wife Diana encountered "horrific" problems when she set up her own wedding gifts business.

Ms Blow, who was previously chief executive of ITNET, said she would be aiming to help small businesses which she felt were not understood by Government when she took up the presidency in 2008.

" I shall be making sure we are thinking about the small businesses and women."