DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that early on in her political career, she vowed never to think that being a woman held her back.
“Don’t think that you don’t get something because you’re a woman,” she told an audience of mostly women at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.
Still, there were times when being a woman head of state was — well, sticky.
May recounted one such moment. She was on a British Air Force flight, heading to a dinner and having to change into evening attire. There were no changing facilities on board but the staff told her not to worry.
“They took up me into the cockpit, there with two pilots, and I’m thinking ‘really?’,” she said.
“A chap comes along with sticky tape and a sheet, and he stuck it up behind the pilots and says: ‘There you go, you can change behind that’,” she said, to laughter and applause from the audience.
May, who became the second female British prime minister in 2016, after Margaret Thatcher, was speaking on stage with the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United Nations, Lana Nusseibeh.
Nusseibeh shared her own “embarrassing” anecdote, saying that once while trying to keep up with the UAE’s foreign minister on the streets of New York, she got her heel stuck in a gutter and it broke off. She did her best to keep up.
“Men, frankly, don’t run in heels,” Nusseibeh said.
May also spoke about a type of boys-club culture that existed when she first entered the House of Commons as a member of parliament in the late 1990s, with “a huge emphasis on the men sort-of drinking together and getting together into groups.”
“Some of the women felt they had to join that, and I didn’t,” May said. “I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. So, I did it my way. I was myself and, hey, I was prime minister.”
May stepped down as Conservative leader last year, leaving behind a legacy as a prime minister who for three years faced the difficult process of trying to get Britain out of the European Union with stubborn determination.
She told the audience that she hopes to be looked upon by young girls as an inspirational leader committed to public service. She also urged women in leadership positions to actively support other women and encourage them to share their experiences.
“The men network. They network a lot. They will use contacts in order to help them through in their careers, and we don’t do enough of that and we should be doing that as women,” May said.