Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to seek out the most powerful women in Britain today

The problem will be restricting the list to 100 as all of us know at least that many magnificent women who in their daily lives redefine the term power."Gwyneth Williams, Controller, Radio 4
Date: 18.10.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.55
Category: Radio 4
Woman’s Hour is to launch a nationwide quest to find the 100 most powerful women operating in Britain today. The Woman’s Hour Power List is a long-term project designed to capture a regular snapshot of the evolving influence of women in society.

The list of 100 names will be chosen by a panel of judges chaired by author and journalist Eve Pollard. The panel will also include former Woman’s Hour editor Jill Burridge.

Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray says: “Elizabeth I was powerful, as were Catherine de Medici and Margaret Thatcher, but it rather feels as if power in a woman is still considered ‘not quite nice’. So, as we ostensibly move towards equality of opportunity, the Woman’s Hour Power List will ask which women have power today? What does power mean and how does the powerful woman play to the crowd? Does she still need to emphasise the body of a 'weak and feeble woman' and only confess to 'the heart and stomach of a king'? Or should she, as Thatcher put it, claim 'I am not a woman Prime Minister. I am a Prime Minister.' Or is it different now?”

Fellow presenter Jane Garvey adds: “You could be forgiven for thinking it’s still a man’s world and we’re lucky to be in it. The Power List is our opportunity to shout about successful, creative and influential women and inspire others to join their ranks.”

Nominations for the Power List will open on 30 October after a special edition of Woman’s Hour launching the project. Members of the public will be invited to suggest women who they believe exercise power in today’s Britain, whether as entrepreneurs, commentators and social activists or in the realms of politics, economics and business.

Gwyneth Williams, Controller of BBC Radio 4 says: “What better place to launch this search could there be than Woman’s Hour, with its extraordinary history and place in the lives and imaginations of so many women. The problem will be restricting the list to 100 as all of us know at least that many magnificent women who in their daily lives redefine the term power.”

The List will not be purely celebratory – it will also offer some insight into the areas where women are making their presence felt only slowly, or where women are absent.

Nominations from the public will close at midnight on 30 November, at which point the panel will begin to assess the relative influence of the nominees, as well as some women the panel feels were overlooked by the public. The final list will be drawn from the pool of all these names.

Alice Feinstein, Editor of Woman’s Hour, says: “Woman’s Hour has always been about addressing what matters to women. I hope the list will provoke debate and disagreement, and open a conversation about the choices women make, the obstacles they face and what it is to be powerful in the 21st century.”

The eligibility criteria are simple – nominations are not restricted in terms of age or area of life, but all nominees must be active in British society. The criteria by which the women will be ranked from one to 100 include: impact on the United Kingdom; the ability to make meaningful decisions; leadership; and access to money.

The project will comprise a number of phases, culminating in the publication of the Power List in January 2013. Following the launch, the programme will feature discussions on women and power, addressing the big conceptual and historic questions about the nature of power and where women exercise it.

This will be followed by interviews with expert witnesses, analysing the nominations and exploring the categories in which there is either a remarkable abundance or a dearth of women.

To stimulate further debate and discussion, Woman’s Hour will broadcast highlights of the judges’ deliberations before publication of the Power List in January 2013. There will be a special event to mark the publication of the list, details of which will be announced closer to the time.

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