May’s day: A woman takes the U.K. helm

Theresa May, the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. Courtesy UK Home Office.

Theresa May, the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. Courtesy UK Home Office.

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, the satirical newspaper The Onion ran an article that said the country was now badly mucked enough to be run by a black man. (Actually, the word The Onion used rhymed with “mucked,” but then I think you knew that.)

To which we might add that the world is now badly mucked up enough – again, still – to be run by women. Tomorrow Theresa May, home secretary of the United Kingdom, will become only the second woman in that country’s history (after Baroness Margaret Thatcher) to become prime minister. Already, she has distinguished herself from Lady Thatcher by announcing that half her cabinet will be made up of women.

A spokesman for Mrs. May said: “It was Theresa who set up the campaign to elect more female MPs to Parliament – and she has always believed that there should be more women in prominent government positions.”

Yes, May has made no bones about the fact that she thinks men have gummed things up enough, particularly with regard to Brexit, the controversial British exit from the European Union. When she found out she was a diabetic, her reaction was the quintessentially British “Keep Calm and Carry On.” That is her attitude to Brexit: “Brexit means Brexit,” she has said. May intends to get on with it, and there’s no doubt another woman of power, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the de facto leader of the E.U., will hold her to it.

I have often been accused of thinking that women are better than men. I do think they are smarter, more compassionate, stronger, more practical, more goal-oriented and, most important, less egotistical than men (though not necessarily more attractive). But I am not so naïve about human nature to think that women in power will be untouched by the challenges men in power have faced. I think Brexit is a mistake whose financial repercussions we have yet to encounter. But the people have spoken, and May has been charged with executing the will of the people. It remains to be seen how she will cope with the reality of a destabilized work force – already some British scientists have been kicked off some E.U. projects – and the loss of E.U. subsidies.

As a woman, though, I’m pulling for her. With May heading the UK, Merkel in Germany, Nicola Sturgeon as the E.U.–loving First Minister of Scotland, Janet Yellen as president of the U.S.’ Federal Reserve System, Christine Lagarde as managing director of the International Monetary Fund and – please God – Hillary Clinton as the next American president, we stand on the threshold of a new age – an age of women leaders. Lord knows they can’t do any worse.

Let’s hope – but also work – to ensure that they do better.