We have a female Prime Minister, a female First Minister in Scotland and a female First Minister in Northern Ireland, and soon we could have a female US President
It’s a bit like the Ice Age: the men are in the process of wiping themselves out, thus giving women the chance to step in and sort things out. They do say, don’t they, that if it had been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers, it wouldn’t have gone down.
What with Angela Merkel as Germany’s first female Chancellor – and de facto leader of the European Union – the possibility that the world’s most powerful countries could be run by women is now looking like a genuine possibility. As the British political world as we know it is imploding as a load of ego-led overgrown schoolboys fracture, divide and generally mess things up, let’s just take a moment, shall we, to reflect on how great that would be.
Women are far less political – with a small p – than men, as they don’t tend to seek glory from politics but understand more about the importance of public service. Generally speaking, the women I know in politics are more interested in doing the right things for the right reasons than doing things for personal gain. And so, at the heart of their decisions is far more likely to be good intent. They are more inclined to work as a team because they don’t need the glory that many men seem to seek. They are more concerned about the job in hand than the next job, which gives them focus.
Theresa May sums herself up with her quote: “I know I’m not a showy politician; I don’t tour the television studios, I don’t gossip about people over lunch, I don’t go drinking in parliament’s bars, I don’t often wear my heart on my sleeve, I just get on with the job in front of me.” How refreshing. How serious. This is exactly what the country needs – serious politics with a softer side.
Lots of male politicians are surrounded by spin doctors peddling the kind of politics they think the public will buy – without truly caring about what is right. In my view, female politicians are far less likely to depend on doctors of spin and far more likely to focus on what is the right thing to do – and to be effective as a result. Leadership is about making the right decisions no matter how difficult or unpopular they are because it is the right thing to do, not making the wrong decision because it might get you re-elected.
British people have shown that they have had enough of people thinking for them and they want to think for themselves. In my experience there is no better way to support people than by listening. And that is perhaps one of the biggest strengths common to female politicians. Women are better listeners. They are more likely to try to generate a consensus rather than feast on the politics of envy and hate that has been generated in politics of late, with a massive shift from positive to negative campaigning. When Hillary Clinton got her presidential nomination, the first woman ever, we watched a visual of a virtual glass ceiling cracking and as it did she said, “I can’t believe we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.” This is the unique thing about successful women – they want to help other women get to the top. Championing women has always been a passion of mine – at my first football club, 75 per cent of the senior management team were women. I believe that if we do not help other women rise to the top, who will? In politics, that passion can spread to more important things like changing the law to ensure gender equality in pay and maternity leave. Changing the law to make it easier for women to return to work because as far as I can see the biggest barrier is not having access to high-quality, affordable childcare.
Britain is ahead of the game in some ways. We’ve been ruled by the Queen for more than 60 years and our female Prime Minister in the 1980s was a positive trailblazer when it came to female leadership. Not everyone loved Margaret Thatcher but she certainly showed the world that women could be leaders as well as mothers and wives. I remember when I met the Queen and as the list of my job was read out CEO of West Ham, Non Executive Director, of a few companies, my Chairmanship of Mentore and so on – the Queen remarked that I was a busy woman. I replied that, like her, when people want things doing they ask a busy woman because as Margaret Thatcher said: “When you want something said, ask a man, but when you want something done, ask a woman!” I think that the new dawn will be a softer style of politics; more honest, less fearful and more nurturing – and maybe that’s just what we need. A team of female leaders for Britain’s next chapter? I’m in.