Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been judged to have had a more powerful influence on the nation than Beyoncé and Bridget Jones.
The late politician has topped the Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List, which aims to “celebrate the seven women who’ve made the biggest impact on women’s lives over the past seven decades”.
The announcement will be made on Wednesday in a programme recorded at a Buckingham Palace reception attended by The Duchess of Cornwall and marking Woman’s Hour’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
In a Power List first, the fictional character, Bridget Jones has also made the final seven as well as American singer-songwriter Beyoncé and feminist academic Germaine Greer.
The 2016 Power List aims to recognise women’s achievements across the 70-year history of the programme and for the first time women no longer living were considered for a place on the list. Those outside the UK were also considered if their impact here could be demonstrated.
In deciding on the final seven names, the judges considered a “woman’s body of work or her role as a catalyst for change over the past 70 years”, as well as those having an impact today.
This year’s judging panel was once again chaired by Emma Barnett, journalist and presenter of BBC 5Live Daily with judges comprising: Karren Brady, business leader and life peer; Ayesha Hazarika, former Labour adviser and commentator; Abi Morgan, award-winning screenwriter (The Iron Lady and Suffragette); Jill Burridge, former editor of Woman’s Hour; and Julia Hobsbawm, Founder, Editorial Intelligence.
The Woman’s Hour Power List launched in 2013 and featured the 100 most powerful women in the UK and was headed by the Queen. In 2014 the list focused on ten ‘Game Changers’ with Baroness Doreen Lawrence in first place. Last year the theme was ‘The Power to Influence’ with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon heading the list.
The seven women on the final Woman’s Hour Power List 2016 are as follows…
1. Margaret Thatcher – First female British Prime Minister (1979-1990) and leader of the Conservative Party (1975-1990)
The judges say: “Love or loathe her, it is hard to think of another woman who has had more of an impact on British women than Baroness Margaret Thatcher within the last seven decades. Anyone born in the 80s, and thereafter, grew up thinking it was normal for a woman to run the country; anyone over the age of 18 while she was in charge was shaped by her leadership style and uncompromising policies. In fact a whole generation of women’s feminism was formed in direct retaliation to her.”
2. Helen Brook – Set up Brook Advisory Centres in 1964 offering contraceptive advice to unmarried women
The judges say: “I think the biggest change [of the past 70 years] was probably contraception, which freed women to think about what they did and what choices they had – in terms of whether they stayed at home or chose to develop their career”
3. Barbara Castle – Labour MP for Blackburn (1945-1979), brought in the Equal Pay Act in 1970
The judges say: “It would be criminal not to put Barbara Castle on that list. Every negotiation I’ve ever had I know I’ve got her standing behind me with what she put into legislation.”
4. Germaine Greer – Australian writer, recognised as one of the major voices of the feminist movement, she published The Female Eunuch in 1970
The judges say: “She’s a warrior for me – she’s somebody who went to the frontline of feminism and said bring it on.”
5. Jayaben Desai – Prominent leader of the strikers in the Grunwick dispute in London in 1976, campaigning against low pay and poor conditions for women workers
The judges say: “She highlighted the plight of low paid women, immigrant workers, racism, trade union recognition – but also dignity, humanity and basic human rights.”
6. Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’s Diary published by Helen Fielding in 1996
The judges say: “Twenty five years ago she ushered in the voice of a woman narrating her own banality as well as her own complexity.”
7. Beyoncé – American singer-songwriter
The judges say: “I think Beyoncé managed to do two things. She turned herself into a very successful commercial brand but with that she also put out quite a positive feminist message, right from the start. Particularly now she’s moving into race relations talking about black lives matter. And also from a beauty point of view, being a black woman who is held up as a global beauty icon at a time when beauty and pop culture is still very white.”
The Woman’s Hour Power List reveal programme will broadcast at 10am on Wednesday December 14 on BBC Radio 4