M People star Heather Small has accused music industry executives of discriminating against women.

The 48-year-old singer, who is preparing to embark on a reunion tour with her band, is convinced the business is weighted against females and fears older women in particular struggle to maintain a career in music.

Small even cites veteran rockers The Rolling Stones as an example of how male musicians can continue working after retirement age.

She tells Britain's The People, "As a woman you notice the ­industry is very male dominated, you see very few black women. That tells a story in itself. The big thing for me is that men can continue into their senior years, for women it is different.

"Look at the Rolling Stones, you'll never see a female equivalent. Experience is respected in a man but as a woman, you get to a certain age and people will write you off."