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Baroness Thatcher - Is She Really a Role Model for Women Leaders?

10/04/2013 15:05 BST | Updated 10/06/2013 10:12 BST

Thatcher is often described as a role model inspiration for women leaders. It is true to say that as the first woman prime minister she achieved high office and recognition never afforded to a woman before. However, as a woman leader myself - can I truly see her as a role model?

In fairness, Thatcher demonstrated great determination to succeed in a time where women traditionally did not have equality in the workplace. She successfully worked her way to Oxford, studying chemistry and later working in that field before entering politics. Thatcher proved herself in two male-dominated fields. However, the style and methods used to achieve this were not those I would wish to model.

Much has been said about Thatcher's steely determination and rigorous defence of her views. At times she appeared more macho than her male cabinet members and the phrase 'being handbagged' was directly attributed to Thatchers' style in dealing with those who opposed her. She was a woman of contradictions as she clearly felt that to succeed in a male-dominated environment it was necessary to adopt some of the more masculine style of her colleagues, yet, commentators over the past 24 hours have mentioned her 'charm', her flirtatious interaction with men and her sense of fun.

Thatcher did not appear to support other women to achieve - never appointing any women members of the cabinet. Her systematic attack on Trade's Unions did not help the cause of women's equality since the Unions were some of the strongest campaigners for equal rights at that time.

Finally, Thatcher did not engage with the one thing any leader truly needs to know - when to quit. Her humiliating exit at the hands of her own back-benchers was a classic example of a leader who had failed to recognise that it was time for change.

Are any of these behaviours the right approach for women managers today?

I do not personally feel that Thatcher's style is something to emulate. Becoming 'one of the boys' to succeed is not necessary or desirable. However, she did make it clear that high achievement for women was possible, given the right conditions and opportunities. For that, I must acknowledge her achievement. However, I will not be joining the ranks of mourners as for me, an educationalist, Thatcher will always remain 'Thatcher the Milk Snatcher' and someone who did not provide the conditions and opportunities for all to succeed as she had.