Friday, 19 April 2013

What did Margaret Thatcher do for women?

The recent demise of Baroness Thatcher has prompted much discussion and debate across the globe, both positive and negative. However, we can mull over the various things she did, or didn't do, for the country during her time in office until we are blue in the face; but what I’m sure we can agree on is that she was a charismatic leader that proved women have a voice, even in an era where business was still very much considered to be a ‘man’s world’.

She was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century and is the only woman to have held the office. However, what did she actually do for women? Some would say not a lot. A recent article written by Jenni Murray, a journalist at the Guardian newspaper, gave the opinion that she did nothing at all – an opinion that is contentious in itself.
And while you may disagree with this opinion of “The Iron Lady”, she had some pretty stern views on the promotion of women in her cabinet - Baroness Young, a close friend of hers had been the only female elevated. She was leader of the House of Lords from 1981 to 1983, but had never been elected to Parliament. If you read through Thatcher’s autobiography, there is no mention of any woman apart from Young, her daughter, her secretary, Indira Gandhi and the wives or daughters of other statesmen. No Edwina Currie, no Virginia Bottomley, no Gillian Shephard, no Angela Rumbold.

Upon facing Thatcher for the first time in the mid-1980s, Murray explained that she would dismiss apprehensions regarding low pay, lack of childcare facilities, and poverty in old age and would scorn the idea of feminism – a term that simply wasn’t in her vocabulary.
When asked about her proclivity to improve equal opportunities she would recurrently reply with the view that none of the women were good, or proficient, enough to rise through the ranks.  She would dismiss positive action with an authoritative: "But no, a woman must rise through merit. There must be no discrimination." While this may be extent valid point for some, you would have thought she might have found some qualities of leadership in at least one female in her cabinet.
Furthermore, her empathy for other ambitious women, who were not as lucky as her in terms of finding independent wealth through marriage, was entirely absent. So while it is wrong to take joy from someone’s death, as we have seen people do in the media, especially in areas of the country most affected by her decisions regarding some traditional industries, it is understandable that people may feel negatively towards her and how those decisions affected them and their communities she made during  the ‘80’s.  
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1 comment:

  1. I empathise with both points of view. I think she did considerable damage to industry but for the right reasons; IR has to be carefully managed to endure suitable outcomes for all stakeholders. A country can't be held to ransom but neither should the community be stripped of an income and future prosperity.
    I found her strength and courage in the face of adversity to be inspirational. Maybe if she had tried being more collaborative rather than seeing it as a weakness it could have made her and the government stronger.

    May she rest in peace
    By Nichola Hodge