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The Next British Prime Minister: Why is the Fact She'll Be a Woman Making Headlines?

I was listening to the BBC Radio 2 this morning and they opened with a short introduction about how the next PM will be Female. They were asking "Will this be good for feminism?" and stated that "critics are saying that female leaders do little for the sisterhood but a lot for themselves".

Now don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we're in a position where women are able to lead - as the radio presenter put it - 'This Great Country' (if it were up to me they'd be a little more progressive, but I guess beggars can't be choosers at the moment). But what I take issue with is the fact that their gender hits the headlines, as if in 2016 this is a shock.

Clearly, having not had a female PM since Thatcher, much discussion will abound about the next woman taking the helm. Born two years after the end of Thatcher's leadership, I don't feel at liberty to comment on the trials and tribulations of living under her as PM, or, with that in mind, on what trepidation some might hold about May stepping in now. But what I do want to ask is why, in 2016, are we suggesting that being female and being in power is something that is surprising enough to be newsworthy? Surely, if we think that it is, then we are part of the problem.

We're now in an age where girls are achieving more than ever before. We have role models such as Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose birthday is tomorrow, the 12th July. 'Malala Day', as it is dubbed, is not about her, but instead about girls around the world, and the recognition of the #yesallgirls campaign which is advocating for safe, quality education for girls globally.

In the world of sport, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are also just around the corner. Thinking of those a little closer to home, heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill will be going for another gold medal to add to her London 2012 triumph. She, along with so many others, are demonstrating female success on a global scale, and doing it with finesse.

These examples show just how far, in some respects, the fight for gender equity has come. But as ever, there remains huge discrepancies between sexes. The United Nations have identified gender equality as one of their goals for sustainable development, and the goals are currently something that I, alongside many others as part of an international collaboration, are working on promoting awareness of and attempting to integrate into university curricula.

But with headlines still commenting on our next Prime Minister's gender, it is clear that much still needs to change. It is not unusual, it seems, for the success of women to still be a surprise. It is echoed in the interactions with some of the patients I encounter:

'Oh, a medical student. Does that mean you're going to be a nurse?'
'A doctor.' I always correct them with a smile. Because funnily enough, we're trying to move away from gender stereotyping, and becoming a doctor is something women can do too.

If we want to progress in terms of gender (in)equity, then we have to stop being surprised at the success of women. Because I for one don't believe that "The next PM is going to be a man" would sell any newspapers at all (nor should it!).


This post first appeared on Amend The Agenda, please read the originial post: here

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The Next British Prime Minister: Why is the Fact She'll Be a Woman Making Headlines?


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