Gordon Brown has asked senior businesswomen to participate in a mentoring scheme to improve aspiration among young women.
The prime minister and his wife Sarah marked international women's day by hosting a reception at Downing Street attended by luminaries from the world of business including Sun editor Rebekah Wade and Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking.
He asked the women at the event to "adopt and mentor" British teenagers and young girls, helping them break through what he called the "glass ceiling" which restricts aspiration.
"I do think it is remarkable to think that one hundred years ago, almost exactly to the month, women were having to chain themselves outside the Houses of Commons and Downing Street to put the case for women's representation," he said.
"It is 80 years since women had the vote on equal terms in Britain, but now I think the issue is how far more we can ensure that women have opportunity in all areas of life."
Mr Brown repeated his call for more midwives and better treatment around the world to help the UN achieve its target of cutting maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015.
He is not the only politician acting on international women's day. London mayor Ken Livingstone who announced a new street lighting scheme, said he wanted to make all public services more accessible to women and announced a new scheme to encourage tube passengers to give up their seats to pregnant women.
"Women have the right to feel safe at any time and any place in our city," he said.
"This new lighting technology will provide more light at less environmental cost as part of our campaign to make London a safer city for women at night."