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 surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
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

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?