LONDON (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the most influential woman of the past 200 years, according to a survey of Britons published on Tuesday which showed men place a higher value on political influence than women do.
Thatcher, who was Britain’s first – and, so far, only – woman prime minister, led her Conservative party to three election victories, governing from 1979 to 1990, the longest continuous term in office for a British premier in over 150 years. She died in April 2013.
Thatcher’s policies on trade unions, privatisation and the Falklands war left Britain bitterly divided over her legacy, and the survey by British pensions and insurance firm Scottish Widows highlighted the depth of her influence in the country.
With 28 percent of the vote, Thatcher beat scientist Marie Curie into second place with 24 percent. They were followed by the Queen with 18 percent, Diana, princess of Wales with 17 percent and women’s rights campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst with 16 percent.
Nun Mother Teresa, British nurse Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, U.S. civil rights activist Rosa Parks and U.S. television host Oprah Winfrey made up the rest of the top 10 most influential women.
The results show that royal women are considered more influential than innovators, scientists and politicians, Scottish Widows said.
Scottish Widows, founded in 1815 to support women widowed in the Napoleonic Wars, sought to uncover the factors that people perceive make a women influential.
It found men were more likely than women to equate female influence with political activity. A third of men and only a quarter of women chose Margaret Thatcher as the most influential woman overall.
Women were also more likely to emphasis values such as ‘demonstrating strong principles and values’, ‘being strong-willed and driven’ and ‘having compassion’ as being important, whereas men were more likely to stress values such as ‘having charisma’ and ‘having talent’.
“The difference that exists between men and women over what makes a women influential is interesting – it suggests that women believe influence comes from a woman’s internal values and drive – i.e. from decisions that they can make about how to be, rather than from characteristics they possess – and men emphasise the opposite,” said historian and author Suzannah Lipscomb.
The survey of 2,000 respondents also found that younger people were more likely to value ambition as a factor in women having influence, with 27 percent of 18-24 year olds choosing this as a key attribute, versus just 9 percent of 55-64 year olds.
Older people put more emphasis on compassion, with 25 percent of over-65s choosing this attribute compared with 16 percent of 18-24 year olds.