Nicola Sturgeon has spoken out about the sexism she faces as a woman politician.
The First Minister of Scotland has been a subject of gendered scrutiny for the majority of her political career: from critiques of her appearance and whether she smiles enough, to discussion of the fact that she doesn’t have children with her husband Peter Murrell, CEO of the SNP.
“Every time a woman politician goes in front of a camera, there are maybe 100 things that she has to worry about, consciously or subconsciously, that a man will never have to have cross his mind,” she told The Gentlewoman magazine.
Sturgeon’s career is in many ways unprecedented. She is the first woman to lead the SNP and become First Minister of Scotland, and when she first stood in 1992, aged 21, she was the youngest general election candidate in Scottish history.
She’s now enjoying unequalled popularity, with the SNP almost sweeping the 2015 General Election under her leadership, while Sturgeon is stepping up to defend Scottish interests in the wake of Brexit (Scotland voted 61.96% to remain EU) with strong indications a second independence referendum is on the cards.
Still, Sturgeon has long been aware of being one of the only women at the table. “I was a young woman in a sphere where pretty much everybody else was a middle-aged man,” she said speaking of her early career.
As a result she had no female role models to look up to or learn from. “Because you are so surrounded by men, you feel as if you’ve got to behave like them in order to fit in,” she said, adding that she advises younger women not to do what she “subconsciously did”.
This acute self-awareness of her gender paired with her work ethic - her husband often physically removes her phone from her ear when she works late at home - means she has developed a reputation as a “sharp-mannered woman” both in politics and the press.
Once admittedly shy, the 46-year-old is now posing for Vogue and known as the “selfie queen”.
“I was, I suppose, trying to find a way of being myself that, maybe in those early days, didn’t quite come through,” she said. “I think you just feel more comfortable as you get older in being yourself.”
As for female role models, Sturgeon has high praise for Hillary Clinton, both politically and personally.
“I’ve identified with a lot of what she’s been through, and I admired a lot of how she has dealt with that,” she said.
“The resilience that woman has – everything she’s been through, and to still come back and do it again. I just... Wow. But anyway, we are where we are.”
The full interview appears in the Spring/Summer ‘17 issue of The Gentlewoman.