Hancock, 77, said women's roles in television have been "totally transformed" since her career began, the BBC reported.
Hancock appeared in the shows "Bleak House," and "New Tricks."
Carey Mulligan won the award for best performance at Friday's ceremony.
Andrea Arnold won for best director. Jane Goldman won the writing prize.
"When I started in the business, there were no women in executive positions, no women producers or directors and certainly no camera women," said Hancock, who got her first big television break in the early 1960s.
"We were destined to do very archetypal roles, very cliched things, so I was a dizzy blonde for years. "It has changed immeasurably, not enough, but it has changed immeasurably."
Host Julie Walters said she was "thrilled" Hancock won the lifetime achievement award.
"It is quite right and not before time," she added.
Screenwriter and director Jo Ho won the new talent award, while Sky News' special correspondent Alex Crawford captured the news and factual award.
Other winners included Beryl, Debbie and Sue Vertue; they won the achievement of the year award.
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