Great to see a third female Tory PM. . .

At the British Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last week, I was struggling to get to a meeting in a room I couldn’t find when suddenly a woman stopped me and handed me a small round badge.

It said, “3-0,” with the number 3 in blue and the 0 in red.

I stared at it oblivious. It wasn’t until I noticed that she was standing in front of a Conservative Women’s Organization booth that it dawned on me. The Conservatives, whose political color is blue, have had three female prime ministers – Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and now Liz Truss. Red Labor had none.

The badge thrower, a pleasant-looking, middle-aged woman, had been watching my face to see when it came to understanding. “It’s great, isn’t it,” she beamed. “We had three and they never had one!”

I haven’t asked her how she feels about being led by a woman whose first week in office was marked by shocking about-faces, pathetic factional strife and polls showing Labor would suffer a landslide victory in an election today .

For one, I was in a hurry. Also, I didn’t mean to say that the fact that Truss is female is indeed cause for celebration, but not for the reasons she might think.

The truth is, women leaders are painfully expected to be more admirable, capable, and inspiring. It’s tiring for them and for ordinary women, and it’s unfair. A woman in power needs the freedom to be as mediocre as any man, but it’s a numbers game. That freedom will be elusive as long as women leaders excel in their numerical inferiority.

Truss is helping to put things right, as were the Conservatives who made her Prime Minister just three years after she was elected May. While it’s hard to calculate, the mere existence of another prime minister should help make her gender happily irrelevant to her leadership.

Personally, one of the last things I think about about Truss is the fact that she’s female. But research suggests that I might not be alone and might feel different if I were a man.

studies It has long been shown that people tend to “think managers, think men” – except in times of crisis when it comes to top jobs frequently go to women or people of color. In general, a man who works for a woman is less accepting of her than his female counterparts. He is also likely to respond by trying to increase his own influence within a team, especially when males outnumber females in the group, so a paper released this year.

It may well be that women make up almost a third of Truss cabinet – slightly larger than Boris Johnson’s last team, but about as much as May’s first cabinet.

Unfortunately, the pool of potential female executives is still relatively small, in the UK and elsewhere.

In the last UK election in 2019, 34 per cent of MPs elected to the House of Commons were women, which was a record. Globally, the proportion of women MPs has risen from a paltry 15 percent in 2006 to an unimpressive 23 percent in 2022, the World Economic Forum’s latest global gender gap report shows.

Once there, only a few are promoted: the average proportion of women in ministerial posts has risen from 10 percent to just 16 percent. At this rate of progress, it will take 155 years to close the political gender gap.

Truss spoke about the frustration of losing one’s potential in her speech at the convention last week. In one of her most quoted lines, she said that as a young girl on an airplane, she once received a Junior Air Hostess badge while her brothers received Junior Pilot badges.

“It wasn’t the only time in my life that I’ve been treated differently because I’m a woman or because I don’t belong,” she said.

And that’s a reminder of something important about Truss. Whatever one may think of her skills, decisions and authority, it is still a statistical marvel that she became prime minister at all.

pilita.clark@ft.com

https://www.ft.com/content/e6f93649-7155-46ce-a3c9-1eafe564b2a3 Great to see a third female Tory PM. . .

Adam Bradshaw

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