The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Dame Nancy is Britain’s 15th most powerful woman

A quarter of the top twenty women on the BBC Woman’s Hour list taught or studied at the University of Manchester


Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University has been named the 15th most powerful woman in the UK.

The list was compiled by a panel of judges for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme. They placed The Queen at number one, followed by Home Secretary Theresa May and Santander bank boss Ana Botin in third place.

Reflecting on her position in the top 20 women, Dame Nancy said: “It was a surprise, and an honour to be in such illustrious company! It is also great to see that a quarter of the top twenty studied or taught at the University of Manchester.”

Women’s Hour listeners were invited in October to nominate women who they thought held the most power in the country.

Over 4,000 responses were received through email, Twitter and Facebook, producing over 1,600 names.

The panel had to decide how much impact each woman had on the country. Whether they had the power to make meaningful decisions which could bring about change and whether they had the financial resources to bring about that change.

Only the top 20 women on the list are ranked, the panel agreeing that after that the distinction between one number and the next was less meaningful due to the vast differences between talents and achievements.

At number four on the list is former Manchester Law Professor, Baroness Hale of Richmond, and three former Manchester students take sixth, eleventh and seventh positions: Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC and Culture Secretary Maria Miller MP.

Speaking on a Woman’s Hour programme in November, Dame Nancy was asked whether she considered herself powerful: “When I was asked that question my immediate response was “no”, but I suppose running an £800 million organisation, with 40,000 students and 10,000 staff, I have to say yes,” she admitted.

One of the judges, journalist Eve Pollard, said: “Most women on our list were judged to have power because they had reached a place where they have control – of policy, of direction, of influence, of staff.

“The panel, a democratic group, also felt that we should include some women who have what we describe as soft power – not hire and fire or innovative financial decisions but the ability to transform the way we think about ourselves,” she said.

Recognisable names on the list that hold ‘soft power’ include Adele, Dawn French, Sarah Millican and Victoria Beckham.

“What this list does is shine a light on those sector where too few women are getting to the top, like politics, FTSE companies, the military and journalism,” recognised Eve Pollard. “Our legacy, we hope, is that this list might change that.”