Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1984 Jan 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC World Service Women of the World (programme on Women in Power)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Jenyth Worsley and Natalie Wheen, BBC
Editorial comments: 0930-1030, broadcast 100 GMT 28 February 1984.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1486
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Parliament, Education, Leadership, Media, Women

Cue In: She shocked everyone when she dared to stand for election as leader of the party against Edward Heath in 1974.

P.M.

That was really, I suppose, the greatest opportunity of all which came along, and I knew the prejudices against women in the top job. But I think we look too much at “women” and “men” in jobs; I think if we looked much more at the appropriate personality, we shouldn't be surprised that sometimes women get on.

Natalie Wheen

You talked about prejudices against women in power, and there was prejudice certainly when you got to the top. Did none of that weigh up against you? Was it difficult?

P.M.

I don't know. I think it weighs against you until you become known, not as a woman politician, but as a personality. You see really to me the whole secret of life is to stop looking at things in terms of men politicians, women politicians, men in power, women in power. You come to a certain time when you look at the personalities available and their policies and you forget whether they're men or women. And really that's how women have got on, because they've had the right personality with the right capability in the right place at the right time. And there have been people who were prepared to look at them as personalities. I always think that one of the great reasons for the advance of legislation in favour of women—1882, for example, only just over a century ago, the Married Women's Property Act: until then married women weren't allowed to have any property, it belonged to their husband—I think a lot of this came, as women became more and more educated, from men who saw their educated daughters, and who saw their daughters [end p1] of considerable talent and ability and who just weren't prepared to look at them as second-class citizens and so gradually they brought in the legislation. It's astonishing that it took so long, but then I suppose in the past women have exerted influence in different ways.

Q

Question not transcribed

PM

I don't think there are qualities of leadership applying to women and qualities of leadership applying to men, I think there are qualities of leadership. I think inevitably those qualities of leadership have to merge with the particular personality and each of us has our own style of leadership.

Jenyth Worsley

What sort of qualities do you think you do need though? Which is the most important quality?

PM

In politics you need to be able to make up your mind on the fundamental principles as they apply to a particular situation and as a decision will probably apply in the future. You really have to have a very long perspective, a perspective from the past—you can learn an awful lot from the past if you will look at it—then take your principles, apply them to the present situation and see what their impact is likely to be in the future. It is sometimes tempting to make the expedient decision; this is a thing from which I have totally and utterly recoiled; it's expedient at the moment but it could have a damaging effect on the long-term. It's the one thing … I wonder if it is? No it isn't. I was going to say I think women do look more to the long-term. I suppose it's part of our destiny, it's in part of our being, that you're interested in the long-term for your children … but then quite a lot of men are too. [end p2]

N.W.

But you're always picked up in the press as being some kind of women with a difference. I mean, today's TIMES has a kind of suggestion that you wagged your finger at Ronald Reagan and said “Now, now”.

P.M.

It's really rather ridiculous, but it's not my fault. It's the fault of the journalist who wrote such puerile stuff. Incidentally, there isn't a female version of the word ‘puerile’ is there? That's probably because we don't need one.

J.W.

When you in fact became leader, did you find that you had to make any sacrifices, did you have to change part of your personality at all?

P.M.

Change part of one's personality? It's very difficult to change part of your personality and I don't think you can be anything but yourself.

N.W.

How about learning the sort of games that men play? I mean listening to “Yesterday in Parliament” which is broadcast every morning on the BBC, I have noticed a sort of increase in bad behaviour from the House of Commons.

P.M.

Is that so? I am interested. Since when?

N.W.

Since you became Leader of the Opposition and then Prime Minister—the sort of increased braying. They are like prep. school boys.

P.M.

That is a very considerable weakness in them. That's very interesting. Sometimes I think their sense of humour is very elemental. I think it's a lack of maturity on their part. They can't take it.

N.W.

Why can't they take it? [end p3]

P.M.

I don't know. It's something quite deep and psychological. Some of them can't take it; most of them can. They try to do it to put you off. I mean it's quite absurd; I'm astonished that after about eight years they're still trying to put one off.

N.W.

We've talked about male aggression, but there's another kind of aggression, isn't there?

J.W.

Well there's certainly female aggression. Do you find that women are particularly acid, as it were, because they would like to be in your place?

P.M.

I don't find women acid. I don't think any woman in power or any woman in life will really have a happy life unless she's got a large number of women friends. Don't you find the same thing? You really must …   . you both understand that frequently it's women who are left to cope. You can't hand over your responsibilities for a family to anyone else. You find it throughout life. You find it in wartime; women did remarkable things in wartime. Why were men so astonished? I don't know. Why were people so astonished? Why sometimes were they so damnably patronising about it? No, I don't find women acid. One values those friendships enormously. Indeed sometimes you wouldn't be able to carry on without them, because you sometimes must go and sit down and let down your hair with someone you can trust totally, who understands similar things and who'll just talk. I mean I find it very easy to talk to Mrs. Gandhi because I suppose that she and I are two women who have something in common that no one else has; and we understand the combination of that pull of family and the total dedication to politics and how you simply cannot get on in politics unless your family are behind you. I mean Denis has been absolutely marvellous—in my earliest days [end p4] when I was married, recognising that one had these talents and abilities and it would be an awful mistake not to use them—so one had the most marvellous encouragement. What else do you need if you have family and friends? You can get through anything; much more important than riches.

Q

question missing

P.M.

I still think women have a lower proportion of self-confidence in relation to their ability than men do. And I still notice it. Just take an example: there aren't any women editors of national newspapers. Why? There are a lot of women journalists, there have been women financial journalists. We haven't had a woman Director of the BBC yet; though we have had many very powerful women in radio and in television.

N.W.

It's that last step which they just don't take, which you took.

P.M.

No, it's not the last step, it's the many, many steps before. It's a mistake to think it's just the last step. When you get up there, I'm firmly convinced if the personality is right and the opportunity comes, the last step will be taken. It's getting them up the tree of responsibility. And quite a lot of them feel that they are carrying out a job and also they have the home to run; and running a home is a managerial job. I always get very cross when women say, “I'm just a housewife”. Running a home is a managerial job and therefore some of them do not wish to take on the added responsibility of climbing their own tree. And so when it comes to the last step to the top, you haven't got enough to choose from; there's all the intermediate layers on the way up, and that's really where we've got to get the extra ambition going [end p5]

P.M.

So you have got these problems, you can't duck them, but there are many many women who have the opportunities and who do not use them, or who are too easily contented with the job that they are doing and who do not necessarily make the effort to climb the tree. Sometimes it's thought to be unfeminine to do that—it isn't at all, you know.