Gordon Brown has admitted he was annoyed by former Europe minister Caroline Flint's barb that women were used as "window dressing" in his Cabinet.
He insisted that he had always tried to promote females within the Government and that many of Labour's policies had benefited women in the country.
Ms Flint's parting shot was one of the most severe criticisms of his leadership at the time of the recent abortive coup.
"Several of the women attending Cabinet - myself included - have been treated by you as little more than female window dressing," she wrote to him.
"I am not willing to attend Cabinet in a peripheral capacity any longer."
In his interview with The Guardian, Mr Brown described her resignation letter as "sad".
Asked whether Ms Flint's remarks had annoyed him, he said: "It does, because I've tried not only to promote women, but also our egalitarian agenda is an agenda that helps women most of all: the minimum wage, working families tax credit, maternity rights, childcare, new chances in education for people who missed them. The majority of people who benefit are girls and women."
He said "many of the important jobs" in Downing Street were done by women.
Most of the people he had recently promoted to Minister of State level - one below Secretary of State - were also women, he said.
Ms Flint had been offered the opportunity to attend all meetings of Cabinet and he wanted her, Hazel Blears and former home secretary Jacqui Smith to remain in the Government.
He reiterated his view that Ms Blears, who also quit this month, should return to the Government.
"The point is, (Ms Flint had) been in that job for a few months, she was doing very well, Europe is a big job and she's going to be at Cabinet," he said.
"So it wasn't a demotion, it was a promotion."