42 under 42: Was the Iron Lady so unique no one will follow?
Insider 42 under 42 member Nina Dar, founder of Cheeky Monkey Business Solutions, explains why Margaret Thatcher is on her mind.
I went to see The Iron Lady last month. The hype that surrounded the film’s launch, and the subsequent debates that it has been a catalyst for, mean that Margaret Thatcher has been on my mind for the past few weeks.
She is 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 fascinate me.
I am drawn to how she became the most powerful female leader since the age of Queen Elizabeth I, a person who tore apart the rule book with regard to gender and class and why that didn't open the floodgates of women who believed they could do the same.
So I thought about my own position. Did she inspire me to think about politics? Yes, I 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.
So I looked to see if such role models have contributed to the shrinking of the entrepreneurship gender gap. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2010 Women's Report makes for miserable reading for an optimist like me.
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?
I came across some female statistics that are on the increase. One in four assaults is now committed by women under the age of 25, and horrifying tales about the rise of girl gangs. So on the 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 complex issues but it's hard not to join some dots.
Thatcher did ignite our capitalist culture; she followed her father's 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.
Because the going was good those policies spanned political parties and we have seen a deterioration of social structures, 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 prime minister? No, it's the legacy of many decisions made by many people but we can only ever look back and learn. Thatcher was elected at a point in time where strong leadership was critical and she provided that; I'm not so confident our current coalition is 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. For me her legacy was "do something rather than try and be somebody". Our culture could definitely benefit from that right now.