Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List 2016 revealed

BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour today unveils their annual Power List. Jenni Murray and Jane Garvey will announce the list at 10am, which celebrates the seven women who have made the biggest impact on women’s lives over the past seven decades.

Published: 14 December 2016
We hope the list inspires, educates and crucially shines a light on the work of some women who history may already be starting to forget.
— Emma Barnett, Chair of the judging panel

The programme was recorded at Buckingham Palace at a reception attended by The Duchess of Cornwall, as part of the programme’s 70th anniversary celebrations. 

The 2016 Power List recognises women’s achievements across the 70-year history of the programme. For the first time women who are no longer alive have been considered for a place on the list, as have those from outside the UK who have had a demonstrable impact here. 

In deciding on the final seven names the judges considered a woman’s body of work, her role as a catalyst for change over the past 70 years, as well as those who are making an impact today.

Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first female Prime Minister, tops this year’s list.

In a Power List first, the fictional character Bridget Jones makes the final seven, alongside American singer-songwriter Beyoncé and feminist academic Germaine Greer.

This year’s judging panel was once again chaired by Emma Barnett, journalist and presenter of BBC 5Live Daily, with judges: Karren Brady, business leader and life peer; Ayesha Hazarika, former Labour adviser and commentator; Abi Morgan, award-winning screenwriter (The Iron Lady and Suffragette); Jill Burridge, former editor of Woman’s Hour; and Julia Hobsbawm, Founder, Editorial Intelligence.

Emma Barnett says: “Having chaired the judging panel for three years running, I was particularly energised about being able to select women who are no longer with us to commemorate Woman’s Hour’s special 70th anniversary. This meant we could respect and honour the ground-breaking work of pioneers like Helen Brook, who gave unmarried women control of their bodies via contraception, and Labour’s Barbara Castle, who gave us the legal right to demand equal pay. The list takes in a range of experiences across a range of ages. We hope the list inspires, educates and crucially shines a light on the work of some women who history may already be starting to forget.”

The seven women on the final Woman’s Hour Power List 2016 are as follows:

1. Margaret Thatcher - First female British Prime Minister (1979-1990) and leader of the Conservative Party (1975-1990)

Emma Barnett says: “Love or loathe her, it is hard to think of another woman who has had more of an impact on British women than Baroness Margaret Thatcher within the last seven decades. Anyone born in the 80s and thereafter grew up thinking it was normal for a woman to run the country; anyone over the age of 18 while she was in charge was shaped by her leadership style and uncompromising policies. In fact a whole generation of women’s feminism was formed in direct retaliation to her.”

Julia Hobsbawm says: “She represents a fundamental shift in thinking - the idea that men call the shots all the time changed overnight with her.”

2. Helen Brook - Set up Brook Advisory Centres in 1964 offering contraceptive advice to unmarried women

Jill Burridge says: “I think the biggest change [of the past 70 years] was probably contraception, which freed women to think about what they did and what choices they had - in terms of whether they stayed at home or chose to develop their career. Everything has followed on from that - employment, job opportunities, all those things flowed on after the change when the pill became freely available to women.”

3. Barbara Castle - Labour MP for Blackburn (1945-1979), brought in the Equal Pay Act in 1970

Emma Barnett says: “It would be criminal not to put Barbara Castle on that list. Every negotiation I’ve ever had I know I’ve got her standing behind me with what she put into legislation.”

4. Germaine Greer - Australian writer, recognised as one of the major voices of the feminist movement, she published The Female Eunuch in 1970

Abi Morgan says: “She’s a warrior for me - she’s somebody who went to the frontline of feminism and said bring it on.”

5. Jayaben Desai - Prominent leader of the strikers in the Grunwick dispute in London in 1976, campaigning against low pay and poor conditions for women workers

Ayesha Hazarika says: “She highlighted the plight of low-paid women, immigrant workers, racism, trade union recognition - but also dignity, humanity and basic human rights.”

6. Bridget Jones - Bridget Jones’s Diary published by Helen Fielding in 1996

Julia Hobsbawm says: “Twenty five years ago she ushered in the voice of a woman narrating her own banality as well as her own complexity.”

7. Beyoncé - American singer-songwriter

Ayesha Hazarika says: “I think Beyoncé managed to do two things. She turned herself into a very successful commercial brand but with that she also put out quite a positive feminist message, right from the start. Particularly now she’s moving into race relations talking about black lives matter. And also from a beauty point of view, being a black woman who is held up as a global beauty icon at a time when beauty and pop culture is still very white.”

In compiling this year’s Power List, Woman’s Hour invited suggestions from listeners and guest contributors with each judge invited to introduce a ‘wildcard’ name for the list.

Alice Feinstein, Woman’s Hour Editor, says: “Each year the Woman’s Hour Power List aims to highlight, celebrate and create a discussion around the achievements of women who are pioneering and affecting change for women and in British society at large. In our anniversary year it felt appropriate to take stock and recognise the women who over the past 70 years have had the biggest impact. Of course it’s been an impossible task for our judges to compile a final list of seven but I’m pleased that this feels like an appropriately wide-ranging and impressive line-up of those who historically and today are having an impact in terms of the choices available to women in the UK in 2016.”

The Woman’s Hour Power List launched in 2013 and featured the 100 most powerful women in the UK, covering women working in traditional power structures - politics, the law, big business - and was headed by the Queen. In 2014 the list focused on ten ‘Game Changers’ with Baroness Doreen Lawrence in first place. Last year the theme was ‘The Power to Influence’ with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon heading the list.

The Woman’s Hour Power List reveal programme will broadcast at 10am on Wednesday 14 December on BBC Radio 4.

Embeddable one-minute video profiles of each woman on the Power List will be available on the Woman’s Hour website along with a longer video about the reception at Buckingham Palace.

Pictured: Ayesha Hazarika, Karren Brady, Jill Burridge, Emma Barnett, Abi Morgan, Julia Hobsbawm