Small Talk: Memo to satirists of sexism - that joke isn’t funny. Consciously or unconsciously, female entrepreneurs are still being held back


Terry Simmonds of the UK Small Business Directory says he was misunderstood. He insists a recent online post was a spoof inspired by a conversation he’d had with another male website entrepreneur rather prone to sexism – and not the insult to female businesswomen it was widely interpreted as being.

“This is a serious website for serious men with serious businesses,” Mr Simmonds originally wrote. “If you are just a little housewife running a little play business from home earning some pin money whilst your other half is out earning a living – please don’t register your business here.”

Hmm. One can see why so many people, both men and women, were less than impressed – and why Mr Simmonds was so keen to clarify his remarks.

The episode is yet another reminder that satire – let’s give Mr Simmonds the benefit of the doubt here – often doesn’t work well online, where it can be difficult to express tone. More to the point, it cuts rather too close to the bone because prejudice, whether blatant or more subtle, does continue to hold female entrepreneurs back.

That’s certainly the view of Erika Watson, founder of Prowess, an online centre for women in business: “The same kind of thinking essentially underpins much government small business policymaking – investment and support has increasingly focused on male-dominated sectors such as transport and construction, with no plan to increase women’s employment there. What about the social infrastructure and care economy, where women’s businesses dominate?”

Tina Boden, who founded the micro-business community Enterprise Rockers, is equally scathing: “To be recognised as a trading business by the UK government, you either have to be VAT registered, operate as a limited company or employ staff. Many women ...  are working hard to balance running a home, caring for children and running their own business – often from home – and if they do not fit the criteria as a ‘trading’ business they become invisible.”

Particularly worrying are attitudes in the creative industries – the so-called “new economy” where one might expect better. Dr Charlotte Carey, a senior lecturer on gender differentials at Birmingham City University, warns: “Some of the new creative sectors, such as software design and computer games, as well as TV and film, appear to be very male dominated.”

If policymakers, financiers and other authorities are not more attuned to the importance of female entrepreneurship, they’re really missing a trick. Prowess points to data showing that women now represent 17.5 per cent of the full-time self-employed workforce. And they are doing it the hard way: they tend to start businesses with around one-third of the finance their male counterparts have at their disposal.

On the upside, those who can overcome such challenges are just the entrepreneurs our economy needs.

Bosses get more time to grasp RTI filing

Good news for small businesses still struggling to get to grips with the demands of real-time information (RTI) – the introduction of penalties for those who fall foul of the system has been delayed.

Automatic fines for non-compliance that were due to be introduced in April will not now come into effect until October.

RTI is the HM Revenue & Customs system introduced in April 2013 that requires all employers to file details of payments made to staff under the PAYE system instantaneously, rather than in a single end-of-year return. While millions of employers have successfully made the switch to the new system using automated payment systems, some smaller businesses, particularly those that have traditionally used paper-based record-keeping, have found it harder to comply.

Colin Ben-Nathan, chairman of the sub-committee for employment taxes at the Chartered Institute of Taxation, says the delay is important. “HMRC has listened to our and others’ concerns and recognised that RTI represents a significant transition for employers,” he said. “It is only natural that many require time to adjust and learn.”

Late payers’ bill soars 52% in six months

More damning figures on the scale of the late payments problem causing small businesses so much trouble: small and medium-sized enterprises are now owed £55bn by customers overdue on their invoices, 52 per cent more than six months ago.

The figures, published by payments firm Sage Pay, underline the direction of travel for an issue that is getting worse not better, despite Government efforts to crack down on late payers.

The average small business is now owed £11,358 according to Sage Pay, while one in five companies has invoices of at least £30,000 outstanding. Tracey Ewen, the managing director of invoice finance company IGF Group, described the figures as a wake-up call for ministers who had hoped a code of best conduct on late payments might improve the practices of large businesses, which are often the slowest payers.

“Originally a beacon of hope, the Prompt Payments Code has slowly been eroded by the refusal of larger companies to take it seriously,” Ms Ewen said.

“If nothing changes, the UK economy will find itself in a situation where businesses are unable to take hold of opportunities for growth because they don’t have access to their own money.”

Small Business Man of the Week: Mike Bingham, Founder and CEO of Senior Response

“We founded the company in 2001. My background was in the call-centre industry – I’d bought a business in the mid-Nineties and sold it in 1998. As it was three years before I could do something else under the terms of the deal, I had time to think. I realised there was a niche to address the ageing population.

“Call centres are mostly staffed by kids, but older customers often respond really badly to them — our concept was to employ older people in order to service that demographic.

“We initially planned just to have people fielding advertising response calls, but it worked so well that we began making calls too – we work on behalf of blue-chip clients in sectors such as financial services, holidays, mobility and health, selling to older people in an ethical way.

“Our employers are all 50 or older; some are in their seventies. It’s their empathy that works well for us – they really sound trustworthy. We also find that while older employees tend to make fewer calls in a given time than younger people, the quality is much higher.

“We have 75 seats, which is small by call-centre industry standards, and we place all our calls manually, rather than using automation technology. The business is performing really well – our turnover last year was £1.5m and we expect it to reach £2m this year.”

The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style

ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Audit Manager Central Functions

To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

Credit Risk Audit Manager

Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week