LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - It is 40 years since “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister, confounding her own prediction that no women would win the job in her lifetime.
On Friday’s anniversary of her landmark 1979 victory, here are six ways that women’s representation, rights and roles have developed since Thatcher changed British politics.
1. Nineteen female MPs were elected at the 1979 election, the lowest number since 1951 and representing 3 percent of the total lower chamber. In 2017, a record 200 female MPs were elected, making up a third of the total.
2. Thatcher did not appoint any women to her cabinet of senior ministers in 1979. Today, five of Britain’s 23 cabinet ministers are female, including Prime Minister Theresa May, with Penny Mordaunt becoming the country’s first female defense minister this week.
3. Some 59 percent of women were employed in 1979, in a society where more mothers stayed at home to bring up children. In contrast, more than 70 percent of women had a job in 2018.
4. Women who did work in 1979 on average earned about a third less than men per hour. The pay gap for full-time workers narrowed to 8.6 percent in 2018.
5. Nearly two thirds of undergraduate university students were male in 1980, the year after Thatcher came to power. But women outnumbered men in the 2017-18 academic year, making up 56 percent of those getting a first degree.
6. In 1979, rape within marriage was legal - it only became a crime 11 years later, thanks to a case in the House of Lords. Laws on sexual violence were still evolving in 2019, with a ban on intimate ‘upskirt’ photos coming into force in April.
Sources: British and Irish Legal Information Institute, Higher Education Statistics Agency, House of Commons Library, Gov.uk, Institute for Fiscal Studies, New Earnings Survey, Office for National Statistics, Thomson Reuters Foundation, UK Political Info
Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org