Tuesday, 17 September 2013

September 2013: The Power Of The British Woman

As a woman - and a British one at that - I may be biased when I say that British women are pretty amazing. It seems that Google is also in agreement as I begin research for this post and find that as I type ‘powerful British’ in the search bar, the first option in the drop down box is ‘women’ (above families and last names – men don’t even qualify in Google’s top three searches). And you don’t argue with Google. The fact is that since the dawn of feminism way back in the late nineteenth century women have become ever stronger and have gained an assertion in the workplace that was once only in the possession of men.

Whether you love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher was part of a major breakthrough in British politics when she became Prime Minister of Britain in 1979. Though often criticized for her lack of compassion towards other women, even The Iron Lady knew how to manipulate others with typically ‘feminine’ characteristics – turning on the waterworks when most effective and flirting shamelessly with male colleagues (we all do it). She was a woman who knew where her strengths lay. Present day British women of power include Karren Brady, now recognised as Alan Sugar’s right hand woman, but who made a name for herself as the first female managing director of a football club when she took over Birmingham City FC in 1993 at just twenty-three years old. She has a list of achievements as long as Naomi Campbell’s right leg to her name, including the role of novelist, businesswoman and journalist. With two children, Brady also encapsulates the wonders of the British woman’s ability to multi-task, juggling an extensive work life with personal life.



The British fashion industry has, of course, produced many great women of power throughout the years. Fashion has given women the opportunity to assert their power in a way that men just can’t – be it professionally or even sexually (oh yes, we know exactly what we’re doing when we wear an off the shoulder dress). Arguably Britain’s most defining era, the 60s, produced some of the most iconic women in fashion that the world has ever seen and though these women may not have gone to the moon or invented the internet, they helped to shape and define British culture as we know it. Designers such as Mary Quant, who was one of the first people to introduce the mini skirt and hot pants to the world encouraged a whole generation to view fashion less seriously and have fun with it, an attitude that still defines Britain today.

Present day British women in fashion are arguably the most influential women that the industry has seen, with the likes of Anna Wintour, Alexandra Shulman and Grace Coddington having all started their careers here. Ms Wintour has held the post of Editor-in-Chief at American Vogue since 1988 and also recently became Artistic Director for Con de Nast - her influence over the entire fashion industry is unquestionable. That combination of dark blonde bob and oversized sunglasses is enough to have any fashionista quaking in their kitten heels in a mixture of fear and admiration. Alongside this, she has also worked on campaigns as an Obama bundler and in 2008 collected around $200,000 for Obama’s election work, demonstrating that the power she has transcends beyond the fashion industry.



The beauty of the British woman is that she can change from quiet and unassuming to passionate and demanding within a matter of seconds. Her ability to simultaneously support and compete with fellow colleagues and friends is an attribute that no man (at least men of the self-confessed macho variety) will ever understand. Her talent to manipulate men into doing exactly what she wants whilst allowing him to believe that he’s ‘won’ is often Oscar-worthy – though I don’t have exact figures, I’m guessing this happens on average at least once a day in any healthy relationship. The power of the British woman is such that she is able to give birth whilst emailing the office and whisking up her partner’s dinner all at the same time. And that is ultimately where her power lies – in the ability to do ten things at once with almost perfect balance and paving the way for the British women who will follow her lead.

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