Who wears the trousers?

Women account for 14% of small UK businesses

Men may still wear the trousers in the world of business, but do you know who chose them? According to Marks & Spencer, women make two thirds of purchasing decisions in menswear. Across the board, women make 80% of purchasing decisions.

This factoid demonstrating the power of women in the marketplace came out at a presentation at a Women in Rural Enterprise event in Somerset last week. Carolyn Currie spoke briefly about a scheme she runs for the Royal Bank of Scotland which aims to support women setting up and running their own enterprises.

Despite women’s dominance when it comes to purchasing, they are not surprisingly under-represented when it comes to running small businesses. Currie says women run just 14% of all small and medium sized enterprises in the country but they do contribute £130bn to the UK economy.

Just think what would happen to that £130bn economic figure if more women set up and ran small enterprises. With women constituting 52% of the population there is plenty of scope for us to increase our share of the small business sector.

One answer as to why more women aren’t more entrepreneurial may come from this statistic. One in five women is unemployed before setting up her own business. That compares to one in 15 men who go from unemployment to self-employment. It suggests a wave of previously stay-at-home women re-entering the workplace as self-employed.

But the times are against us. As predicted by the TUC in March, women are bearing the brunt of job cuts in the faltering economy. The Guardian reported last week that the number of women claiming unemployment benefit is at its highest level since 1996. More men than women are unemployed  but that’s because more men than women were working in the first place.

I don’t know why I find any of this surprising. It’s proof, not that I wanted it, of the continuing inequality between men and women when it comes to paid employment.


Shadow Line

BBC 2 drama Shadow Line

There have now been three episodes of the drama Shadow Line on BBC 2 and I think I know what’s going on. It’s about a drugs cartel and one of their member was shot just after he was let out of prison. He was in the back of a car at the time and there was quite a bit of mess. The driver of the car did a runner and everyone – the police, the rest of the cartel, a sinister go-between called Gateway – was after him.

The driver turned up eventually but it wasn’t long before he got shot, along with his pregnant partner and his mother. Now we’re getting the back stories of all the other characters: the lead investigator who has a bullet lodged in his brain from an earlier ballistics incident. He seems to have two wives. Then there’s the guy who had to take over running the cartel when their main man was shot at the beginning. His wife has Alzheimer’s although she’s still apparently in her 40s.

Rafe Spall is fantastic as the cerebrally-challenged psycho nephew of the murdered drugs baron. His scenes are so fraught with tension and the threat of extreme violence I can hardly bear to watch them. Headliner Christopher Eccleston is all big ears and nose as he takes his role very seriously. He only did one series of Doctor Who, you know.

What I don’t get about this series is the scheduling. Shadow Line is on on BBC 2 every Thursday at 9pm. But after the week-long blitz of Criminal Justice or my tendency to splurge on a DVD box set every night of the week I’m not sure I can  be bothered to wait a whole seven days to get the next instalment of this passable drama. I wouldn’t wait a week to re-engage with whichever novel I’m currently reading. Quite quickly the once weekly instalment of a four or six-part drama has come to seem very old-fashioned indeed.


Celebrity vacuum

The Duchess of Cambridge on her wedding day

You can project whatever you like into a vacuum. I think this every time I see a shy and retiring celebrity in the press or on TV.

You may think there’s no such thing as a shy retiring celebrity but for me there are a few; people like Kate Moss and Kate Middleton or the Duchess of Cambridge as she became last Friday. They are celebrities who are famous for what they do (working as a model or marrying the future king) and they are endlessly photographed but they rarely, if ever, speak publicly or give interviews.

They therefore live in something of a vaccum. All that we, the public, know about them is what they look like and whatever scant facts their indiscreet friends and relations offer up to journalists.

So long as the duchess retains her silence and relative distance from the public then we can project whatever we like onto her. We can think of her as clever, sweet, self-contained and beautiful all of which she appears to be. And that would be far better for her and for us than to become the beautiful, not clever, wronged woman we got to know in Diana, the late princess of Wales. Long may Kate’s silence last.