: ‘Seeing women in positions of power can change the idea of what is possible’: How Queen Elizabeth II helped crack the glass ceiling


Queen Elizabeth II was a symbol of constancy for Britain in her seven-decade reign, according to the tributes and condolences pouring out Thursday in the wake of her death at age 96.

But the monarch — despite the fact that it’s an hereditary title rather than one based on merit — was also a powerful role model for women for the 20th Century — and then 21st Century — who dreamed of ascending to high-profile, very visible roles of authority, some noted.

“She has been a personal inspiration to me, and many Britons,” Liz Truss, Britain’s new prime minster, said Thursday, speaking days after she met Queen Elizabeth.

The queen’s death was “a huge shock to the nation and the world,” Truss said.

Truss was the 15th prime minister to serve during Queen Elizabeth II’s time on the throne. Truss was the third woman in those ranks, following Theresa May, who served as prime minister from 2016 to 2019, and Margaret Thatcher, who served from 1979 to 1990.

Queen Elizabeth II “was respected and admired not only by her own people but far beyond our family of nations,” according to a statement from May.

“‘When she became queen in the 1950s, women were not in positions of power, and now the United Kingdom has seen three women serve as prime minister.’”

— Lorraine Hariton, CEO of Catalyst

“Queen Elizabeth II was a powerful and history-making symbol of women’s leadership for not only women and girls in her own country but around the world,” said Lorraine Hariton, CEO of Catalyst, a global non-profit focused women’s advancement in the workplace.

The world has changed since the live broadcast of the queen’s coronation in 1953, Hariton noted. “When she became queen in the 1950s, women were not in positions of power, and now the United Kingdom has seen three women serve as prime minister. We know that seeing women in positions of power can change the idea of what is possible for all of us.”

In a statement on the queen’s death, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said, “The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement, and the forward march of human dignity.”

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama noted that Queen Elizabeth II made “the role of queen her own — with a reign defined by grace, elegance, and a tireless work ethic, defying the odds and expectations placed on women of her generation.”

Gaps between male and female pay and career opportunities may have narrowed during recent decades, but they persist — and they’ve even been threatened to widen because of the pandemic.

As of 2020, there was a more than 11% difference between the median wages of woman and men in highly developed countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. That’s narrowed from over 18% two decades earlier, the research noted.

In the U.K., that 2021 gender wage gap was 14%, OECD data added.

Queen Elizabeth II and Philip were married for 73 years before his death last year at age 99.

In one twist, a real-life subplot for “The Crown,” the acclaimed Netflix

series about Queen Elizabeth, actress Claire Foy, who played the queen in her younger years, was reportedly paid less than male co-star Matt Smith, who played Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.

It will take 132 years for women worldwide to get on the same financial, political and educational footing as men, according to July estimates from the World Economic Forum.

Queen Elizabeth II left “a legacy of feminism” even if she wouldn’t have described it that way, historian Amanda Foreman said Thursday on CBS News. “As a woman who carried on working, who aged until the age of 96, but showed that she was always relevant, she is the original woman who nevertheless persisted.”

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