Women are turned off by the “rough and tumble” of politics and lack the networks men have, Home Secretary Theresa May MP said at the Women in the World London Summit.
During the interview she said: “I think often women will look at what is the most seen part of politics which looks pretty rough and tumble. Often I think they just need someone to say to them, I think you can do it.
“Men think of it as a career for themselves. Women might think about it but need someone on their shoulder saying, have you thought about being a councillor, an MP? Women often don’t have the networks men have.”
As one of the top women in the Conservative party she has been highlighted in the press for her ‘power dresses’ and clothes and said trying to be yourself in the workplace can be a challenge for women: “One of the challenges for women is to be ourselves and say ‘You know what, you can be clever and like clothes’. You can have a career and like clothes.”
“I wasn’t thinking of it as a power dress – I thought I’d wear a dress. I’m a woman and I like clothes.”
May said she has never looked towards a role model, and so has never heard the likes of Margaret Thatcher in her head as guidance: “Margaret Thatcher was an amazing politician but I’m not someone who hears someone in their head. I’m not someone who has a role model I inspire to. I just get on and do what I think is the right thing to do.”
“I didn’t really have someone who was a mentor but it was something I wanted to do for a long time. I tried never to think that at any stage if I failed to get an election ‘it’s because I’m a woman’. I tried to say what do I need to beef up. What questions didn’t I ask?”
Without a mentor or role model May said she has guided her career by making decisions that she believes have been morally the right thing to do: “The Home Office covers a number of areas but fundamental to it is keeping people safe and secure. In my time I have been dealing with a particular number of issues that have raised more of these personal issues, such as abuse and domestic violence. It’s all part of what the Home Office does.
“It’s harder to say or do something that may not be liked but do it because it’s right. I try and do what I believe is the right thing to do.”