Was the Iron Lady so unique no-one will follow?
I went to see the film Iron lady on Friday. The hype that surrounded the films launch and the subsequent debates that it has been a catalyst for mean that MT has been on my mind for the past few weeks. Still a polarising figure, worshipped and reviled, sometimes by the same people. People who emerge from the masses and become figures that make such a difference to the world because of their actions (good and bad) fascinate me. Why them? What did they do to get such attention and influence? Of course in reflection, was that a good thing or bad?
I am drawn to how she became the most powerful female leader since the age of Queen Elizabeth, a person who tore apart the rule book with regards to gender and class and why that didn’t open the floodgates of women who believed they could do the same…what happened why don’t we have at least a handful of women who followed the trailblazing path she made and are rule making now?
So I thought about my own position…did MT make me think about going into politics…yes, in fact tried it at a local level and I hated everything about it. Did she inspire me to do anything else…yes, I always saw her smashing that glass ceiling as a moment that signified women could do anything, between her and the Queen, women were holding the most powerful positions in our country, the world was mine for the taking. So I looked to see if these role models have contributed to the shrinking of the entrepreneurship gender gap, what I found sent me into a depressive state.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2010 Womens Report makes miserable reading for an optimist like me. Although these are global statistics the UK is not a beacon of hope and the bit that made my heart sink the most was “compared to men, women are equally likely to see entrepreneurship as attractive, yet they lack positive attitudes about their own personal capacities or inclinations for starting businesses, and they have less personal contact with entrepreneurs.” WHY?
“in only one of these 59 economies (Ghana) did more women participate in entrepreneurship than men. While most policymakers and academics agree that entrepreneurship is a catalyst for economic growth and national competitiveness, they must also acknowledge that not all groups in their societies have equal access to this endeavor. When a major part of a population does not engage in entrepreneurship,these economies lose the benefits that would otherwise be provided by new products and services, additional revenues, and new jobs. More specifically, when women do not participate equally in entrepreneurship, society loses out on the value that can be created by half its populace.”(Gem Consortium)
At the same time I came across some female statistics that are on the increase. 1 in 4 assaults now committed is by a women under the age of 25, horrifying tales about the rise of Girl Gangs. So on one hand, women are still insecure about their own capacity to be an entrepreneur on the other hand they are fighting back on the streets. I don’t want to generalise or trivialise very complex issues but its hard not to join some dots and look at cause and effect…
MT did ignite our capitalist culture, she followed her fathers view that not everyone was equal and never would be, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t aspire to and have the same things. Her policies made that possible and did start the “what’s in it for me” boom that so many benefited from (privatisation, home ownership, etc.). Past her reign because the going was good those policies spanned political parties and we have seen a deterioration of the social structure that had been in place, families have become broken, estranged and extended, respect for others has become tribal and some people don’t feel guilty about robbing – they just see it as getting something they want.
Is this the legacy of the first and only female PM? No, it’s the legacy of many decisions made by many people but we can only ever look back and learn and I for one think that that’s something worth doing as we find ourselves at another turning point for our country. MT was elected at a point in time where strong leadership was critical and she provided that, I’m not so confident our current coalition are doing the same. So do we wait or do we do something?
I don’t believe in positive discrimination and I’m not a member of any women’s groups but I don’t like what I’m hearing and I am more about the do something than waiting for something to happen. So anyone women reading this who wants some help setting up their business or wanting to know where to start, call me 07837 536979 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give my help for free. For me MT’s legacy was “do something rather than try and be somebody” our culture could definitely benefit from that right now.