I was very excited about the idea of a Power List, composed by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. I thought it might shine a light on women who could be inspirational to a younger generation and generally, I just like to hear about women who are successful in their chosen field. When I pick up Stylist magazine every week I always turn first to the Work/Life feature that follows a woman for a day. It’s fascinating and I often learn something.
So the Power List, I thought, would be a Good Thing. And now I’ve seen it, I still agree. Sort of. It’s very white, but I suppose that could be a reflection of British society more than the list itself. I suspect any sort of power list, male or female, would be equally so. Disappointingly for me personally, it doesn’t feature many journalists. In fact, Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, is the only print journalist on the list. Where’s Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands? Polly Toynbee? Or the brilliant Zoe Williams or my favourite Caitlin Moran? I’d argue they have just as much ‘power’ as Clare Balding or JK Rowling.
It’s a good list, though. I spent a very happy hour trawling through and reading the profiles of all the women featured. But then you get to number one. It’s the Queen. Oh, I thought. The Queen. And I felt a bit deflated, to be honest.
My feelings about the Queen topping the list are a bit confused. She does have power, I grudgingly admit. She’s the head of state. So I suppose, on that basis, she should be there.
But if she does have power, and apparently she does – more so than you might expect of a monarch whose role is supposedly ceremonial – she probably shouldn’t. She’s not earned that power, she’s not worked her way up to it, or been elected to it. Any power she does have is unaccountable. I don’t have much time for Theresa May, who’s number two on the list. But at least if she does something truly terrible, she’d (hopefully) lose her job. That’s not going to happen to Queenie.
I also find it quite depressing that had you compiled this list 50 years ago, or 150 years ago, the Queen would have topped it. If you’d done it 100 years ago, she wouldn’t have. But that’s only because we didn’t have a Queen then. It’s just so arbitrary and I think that’s why I’ve got a problem with it.
You could pick any woman off the street, anyone at all, and she’d have a decent crack at being Queen. Heck, I’d do it. How hard can it be? I’d even have jumped out of that helicopter for real. But the jobs the other women on the list do, can’t be done by just anyone. I couldn’t be Home Secretary or Poet Laureate, or run Santander or Mumsnet. I haven’t written seven best-selling novels, or launched an inspirational children’s charity. I don’t have Olympic gold medals, or a highly acclaimed fashion line (more’s the pity).
And actually, feelings about the monarchy aside, the criteria was women who make meaningful decisions to bring about change. Who “set the agenda in 2013 and see it through”. Does the Queen do that? I don’t think so. What do you think?