“Be yourself” is the advice former British prime minister Theresa May gave to the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai on Monday, explaining how she had risen to the top job despite refusing to conform to masculine traditions in politics.
“I did my politics a different way from the men,” she told the mostly female audience of her entrance to parliament in 1997.
“There was still a huge emphasis on men drinking together, getting together into groups and some of the women felt they had to join that and I didn’t,” she said.
“I felt I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it so I did it my way, I was myself and hey, I became prime minister,” she said, provoking laughs from the audience.
May served as Britain’s second female prime minister, after the late Margaret Thatcher, and home secretary as well as minister for women and equalities -- a role that remains necessary in May’s view.
She resigned as premier in July 2019 after three years in the post amid mounting pressure over her inability to carry out Brexit, a topic notably absent from her speech in the United Arab Emirates.
At the end of September, during her first major public appearance since leaving Downing Street, May announced she would not rush to write her memoirs.
That remains the case, said May, despite the encouragement of many people, including former foreign secretary William Hague.
“He thought it was very important that people at the center of events write about them, so that historians can look at what it was like for the individuals involved,” she said.
“So maybe, maybe one day, but I am not doing it at the moment,” she added.
She advised the women in the audience to persevere in the face of failure and highlighted the causes she continues working on, including domestic violence, modern slavery and mental health.