It was a man’s world.
I don’t know about you, but some of my opinions on life are exactly the same now as they were twenty years ago. Opinions can be swayed, and formed, over a period of years, and altered in the blink of an eye as well. So I think perhaps what I am thinking about isn’t as much an opinion as a value: a deeply held belief. A belief in myself.
Being a teenager in the Eighties, when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister it never occurred to me that it was strange or anything unusual that she should be a woman leading a country in a man’s world. And have no doubt, it really was a man’s world even then. My own mother was a working woman as well, but back in the day being a woman who went out and had a career outside of her traditional duties as wife and mother was not the norm. I was part of the first generation of young women growing up without the expectation that we would leave school at sixteen, get engaged, get married, and then get pregnant (not always in that order). We weren’t expected to have tea on the table at 6pm for our husbands when they got in from work, we weren’t expected to be the living breathing embodiment of the perfect housewife.
I know that the death of Baroness Thatcher has stirred up some strong feelings, bitter memories and resentments over the injustices that she and theConservative government inflicted on sectors of British society. I myself am not sure about how I feel about some of the things that she did, but as a woman she played an extremely important role in my understanding of what was possible in my life. She was a hated figure, she was admired, revered, she was ridiculed, she was feted. She stuck to her guns and lead from the front, she believed in herself, and she believed in the country that she was leading. She didn’t compromise, and she made it okay to be a strong leader. She smashed through the glass ceiling. One of the things I liked about her was the fact that she expected to be treated as an equal to a man, and she didn’t lean on feminist principles to drive a point home. She was a leader; it was irrelevant as to which sex she was.
As an impressionable teenager I loathed Mrs Thatcher and all that the Conservative party stood for and what they did. As an adult with the benefit of hindsight I can see the influence she had on me, my peers and my country. Some of it was disastrous, but her influence on young women and girls cannot be denied. Without her would we have so many women in positions of power in business now? It’s not possible to say, but she certainly beat down a path that many thousands of women gladly followed. So thank you Mrs Thatcher for my belief that I can do whatever I want to do without needing to ask for permission, without needing to worry about what people might think, and the knowledge that it is entirely within my grasp to achieve whatever I set out to. And thank you on behalf of my little girl too.