Margaret Thatcher

Style or sexism? Female leaders face focus on appearance

For Margaret Thatcher, it was handbags. For Theresa May, it's shoes.

The new British prime minister likes to wear boldly patterned kitten heels, and the media is fascinated. May's footwear has been analyzed, photographed and satirized. Photojournalists have captured her shoes in close-up alongside the stilettos of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the wedge heels of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Sun tabloid greeted May's victory in Britain's Conservative leadership race with a front-page image of her leopard-print shoes and the headline "Heel, boys."

Dozens of countries around the world have had women at the helm, including India,...