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Cherie Blair: men still adjusting to powerful women at work

Cherie Blair CBE
Andrew Hasson | Photoshot | Getty Images
Cherie Blair CBE

Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has said that there are still some people, even in Britain, adjusting to the growing presence of powerful women in important positions in society.

Talking to Tania Bryer for CNBC Meets, Blair, a well-respected barrister and founding member of Matrix Chambers, said, "The idea that women are really equal to men and are therefore entitled to have opinions and express them is still sometimes something that the world needs help in adjusting to."

Blair made the comments in relation to the difficult relationship she experienced with the British media during her husband's time in office between 1997 and 2007, which began the morning after the Labour party won the 1997 election – when Blair opened her front door in her pajamas, to the delight of waiting photographers.

Blair said many assumed that when her husband became Prime Minister she would step back from her career, as traditionally the British "First Lady" was seen as an uncontroversial and quiet figure of support.

"My children were a bit older and I was able to spend more time developing my career," Blair said of her thinking in 1997. "Why would I give that up just because my husband's job had changed? It took a bit of time to try and work out how to develop that."

(Read More: Cherie Blair: Thatcher Taught Tony How to Win)

Blair said the change in the role of women over the last 50 years has taken time for many to adjust to. "There are still structures in society, whether it's in relation to companies and the work-life balance, or politics and whether women are really playing their full role, that we're still adjusting to."

Blair's comments come at a time when women's role in the workplace has become a pressing matter for many, both within and outside the business world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking ahead of the national election in September 2013, promised that her Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) would call for a legally-binding quota of 30 percent of women in boardrooms, starting in 2020.

The European Commission wants a 33 percent female quota by 2020, something that may be difficult in the UK. While the government wants the 33 percent target met by the next election in 2015, a report in April showed that the percentage of women promoted to the boards of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies had begun to slow, falling from 29 to 26 percent in the previous six months.

For Blair, whose foundation aims to advance women's rights and opportunities across the globe, the need to promote women to powerful positions in society is her main aim since her husband left office.

"I'm determined before I die that the 21st century is going to be the century when all women have that opportunity and not just the fortunate few. So not just women in our country but women in every country."

CNBC Meets: Cherie Blair will air on Wednesday 15 May.

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  • Showtimes

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    Wednesday 17 December 23:00 CET

    Saturday 20 December 23:30CET

    Sunday 21 December 18:00CET


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    Saturday 20 December 19:00 SIN/HK

    Sunday 21 December 07:00 & 20:00 SIN/HK

    Monday 22 December 04:00 SIN/HK


    AUSTRALIA/NZ

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    Saturday 20 December 19:00 AEST

    Sunday 21 December 07:00, 10:30, 17:00, 20:00 AEST

    Monday 22 Decmber 04:00, 08:00 AEST