'Going to prison completely changed my views of the people in there' - Vicky Pryce

YOU LIVE AND YOU LEARN: The chief economic adviser at CEBR and ex-wife of disgraced former cabinet minister Chris Huhne on life after jail, sexist work culture and why Europe needs to give Greece a hand.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 21 Jan 2016

My father always taught me that girls could do at least as well as boys. He let me move from Greece to the UK on my own to study for my A levels. It was hugely empowering, because he put a lot of faith in me - that made me perform.

On top of my studies, I worked as a telephonist at a Mayfair hotel. I learned I could survive if I really needed to, because no job was beneath me. I'll always remember that if all else fails, I could become a taxi driver. Occasionally I dream of this. I've always liked driving.

It's terrible to see what's happening to Greece. The economy's collapsing and the middle class has been practically eliminated. Frankly, a little bit more solidarity from Europe would help. Yes, we need reforms, but the Greeks need help to achieve them, not threats.

Women who succeed have to do a lot more than men and take their opportunities. My career began at Williams & Glyn's Bank when I got a job sorting its dusty library. The boss asked me if I wanted to stay as a proper economist and I said yes.

We will be more productive if there are quotas for female executives. Unlike non-executives, they can change organisational culture to meet women's different needs. It isn't just about treating everyone the same. 'Lap dancing clubs are open to everyone, so why don't you come along too?' Very funny.

I became chief economist for the then Department for Trade and Industry in 2002. The permanent secretary asked how I would cope with the bureaucracy. I said you must be joking - have you ever worked for a large company? I found I could get more things done in the public sector than the private.

Going to prison completely changed my views of the people in there. There's a solidarity among the women, and the guards treated us with a lot of dignity. I'm still in touch with the friends I made and I'm involved in prison reform. We spend far too much money on it when what works best is better education and having a job.

My career resumed quite easily. People have been amazing. When I speak at an event, it's just another part of my introduction. I'm very happy with what I'm doing now, writing books, teaching and research. As for a career in politics? That's a watching brief.

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