Take away whether or not you agree with her policies, Margaret Thatcher was a formidable character who had tremendous influence and presence on the world stage. But it was not until she reached her 50s that she had her opportunity to shine. Margaret Thatcher was 49 when she became leader of the Conservative party and 53 when she became Prime Minister.
For Margaret Thatcher she did not enter her 6th decade with any thought of becoming invisible – quite the opposite. There was no glass ceiling in her mind because she was a woman- and no glass ceiling because of her age. Her innate belief in her own abilities was sufficient to spur her on to take on the role which she believed was rightfully hers – becoming Britain’s first, and so far only, female Prime Minister at the age of 53. Through sheer force of character she followed her dream and her destiny.
The fact that she was female also meant that she was under greater scrutiny than her male predecessors. Critics were looking to her weaknesses because she was a woman. How often were Edward Heath or Jim Callaghan scrutinised for what they wore as well as for what they said? Margaret Thatcher did not try to behave like a man- or dress like one to be taken seriously. She understood that she could still be feminine while exuding confidence and taking control of difficult situations. She developed a signature ‘look’ which was timeless and appropriate to her position.
Her confidence grew in her 50s
Margaret Thatcher’s confidence did not diminish in her 50s- it grew. She understood her strengths and she played to them. Margaret Thatcher was a woman in her 50s who was comfortable in her own skin – and it showed. She knew who she was and what she believed in.
There has been much criticism of her policies and also of the fact that she did not promote other women around her. However, no-one can fail to recognise her strength of character and the fact that she refused to be invisible after 50, but saw this as her time to shine, breaking through barriers unlike any woman in politics before or since. While other women of her generation were looking towards retirement, Margaret Thatcher was showing the world that women over 50 were in their prime.
So, for any of us doubting our ability to realise our own dreams or goals over 50, we can look to the Iron Lady for inspiration. She was focussed, confident and made things happen.
Love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher made her mark in the world, and she did it in her fifties.
May she rest in peace.