‘There are no boundaries’ Priti Patel tells LBC on International Women's Day

8 March 2021, 11:27

By Joe Cook

More should be done to encourage women into leadership positions and make clear “there are no boundaries”, the home secretary has told LBC in an exclusive interview to mark International Women’s Day.

Priti Patel, who is the most senior woman in the government, told LBC International Women’s Day was a “really good opportunity” to “continue to speak out about the role of leadership, what it takes in terms of being a leader,” and to give a “voice and confidence to others to come forward into leadership roles”.

The home secretary said the women she has been speaking to as part of the Home Office’s consultation on violence against women and girls are “the very youngsters who will become our leaders of tomorrow”.

“Making sure that we can invest in them, continue to grow them, give them the confidence, the ability for them to speak out and speak up is absolutely crucial,” she added.

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A flag to mark International Women's Day was unfurled outside Parliament on Monday morning.
A flag to mark International Women's Day was unfurled outside Parliament on Monday morning. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Media

“There are just so many good opportunities and I definitely think - certainly the United Kingdom being the type of country it is - we have these opportunities and we should definitely encourage more and more girls and women to go for it.

“You know, there are no boundaries. We should absolutely encourage them to go for those big positions of leadership that they aspire to hold.”

However, Ms Patel has come under fire for her own leadership while in government, with claims that she bullied staff beneath her.

Last week the Home Office reportedly agreed to pay £340,000 to settle a legal case brought by a former Whitehall official, who claimed he was forced out of his job for defending his staff against her.

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Boris Johnson, who has defended the home secretary amidst the bullying claims, also used International Women’s Day to speak out about female leaders.

The prime minister praised the work of Professor Sarah Gilbert, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, former vaccines taskforce head Kate Bingham, medical regulator boss Dr June Raine, and NHS England's Dr Emily Lawson and Dr Nikki Kanani.

"This International Women's Day I want to pay tribute to some of the leading figures in the UK's vaccination programme," he said.

"Their ingenuity, dedication and hard work is an inspiration to all of us."

Oxford Professor Sarah Gilbert was amongst those the prime minister highlighted on International Women's Day.
Oxford Professor Sarah Gilbert was amongst those the prime minister highlighted on International Women's Day. Picture: PA

Away from politics, to mark International Women’s Day the Metropolitan Police carried out their first all-female operation to tackle robbery and violent crime.

Every callout related to the offences in two south London boroughs on Saturday night was attended by an all-female team.

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The Met carried out their first all-female operation on Saturday evening.
The Met carried out their first all-female operation on Saturday evening. Picture: Met Police

Celebrities, including Helena Bonham Carter and Benedict Cumberbatch, have also voiced their support for female leadership, as the annual March4Women moves online due to coronavirus restrictions.

Instead of the usual rally or march through central London, organisers are urging people to join their Stop Telling Half The Story campaign online, which is calling for more female leadership during times of crisis.

The campaign, organised by Care International, is also calling for the UK to be a champion for diverse women's voices in 2021, and to campaign for gender justice and women's leadership at international events including the G7 and Cop26.