Who is the most powerful woman in Britain?


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More than 33 years after Margaret Thatcher first entered Downing Street, the BBC will respond to concerns about the lack of female representation in the upper echelons of British society by launching a project to identify the 100 most powerful women in the nation.

The "Woman's Hour Power List" will be compiled during a month of special programmes on Radio 4 and will be supported by online nominations from members of the public.

The list of 100 names will be drawn up by a panel headed by former national newspaper editor Eve Pollard.

The panel, and the programme's listeners, will be informed by a series of pieces of expert analysis on various sectors of society, from business to law. Fresh from her role as an Olympics commentator, Clare Balding will present an assessment of the most powerful women in sport. Other sectors will include fashion, retail and social media.

The editor of Woman's Hour, Alice Feinstein, said the exercise would highlight areas of British life in which there was a dearth of powerful women. "My suspicion is that we may find that those individuals are concentrated in certain areas, they are doing certain jobs and there are huge gulfs where women hardly appear at all," she said.

She added that previous research had highlighted shortages of women in powerful positions in the judiciary, higher education and the military.

The Power List will "celebrate the successes" of women, but is also intended to provoke a debate on the reasons why women have not made greater progress in British society and whether there are "good reasons why some women might not want to take those positions", she said.

According to Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murray, some women are still not comfortable with the idea of power. "Elizabeth I was powerful, as were Catherine de Medici and Margaret Thatcher, but it feels as if power in a woman is still considered 'not quite nice'," she said.