The world’s most powerful women are those with qualities of leadership and transformation. They are strong, intelligent business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, philanthropists and CEOs. They are women who build brands, manipulate financial markets and broker international agreements as they travel the world, in professions traditionally dominated by men, but where women’s influence is growing.
In this list we define the word ‘power’ as the ability to influence. Influence that leaves a long-term legacy rather than dictatorial power.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
Arguably the most powerful of all women in the world, Merkel is watching the growth of right-wing political movements as she faces a re-election bid in 2017. She has been maintaining a united European front in the wake of Brexit, balancing growing Russian influence on the continent and managing more than 1 million migrants who have entered Germany in the last five years. Merkel guided her country through a recession with stimulus packages and subsidies for companies, enabling Germany to see a budget surplus of 12.1 billion Euros ($13.1 billion) and an AAA credit rating in 2016.
Janet Yellen, Chair, Federal Reserve, United States
Janet Yellen, chair of the US. Federal Reserve System since 2014 is the world’s most powerful market-mover with unsurpassed influence over American monetary policy. As the first female Federal Reserve chair she has raised interest rates just twice, asserting her power using logic and plain speaking. While she is a Yale- and Brown-educated economist, she communicates business for lay people and professionals.
Melinda Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Melinda Gates dominates women in philanthropy and global development with 4.2 billion dollars in gifts in 2015 and more than 36.7 billion dollars in grant payments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000. Her work has inspired other big donors and has changed way funders think about effective philanthropy, with highly targeted campaigns coupled with data-driven monitoring and global collaboration. In 2017 Gates is taking time from her philanthropic work to create a personal team dedicated to helping increase the number of women in technology-related industries, an area she is passionate about.
Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors (GM)
After two years as General Motors CEO Mary Barra has been appointed chair of General Motors. A 36-year veteran of the company, Barra has driven strong domestic sales, steady performance in Europe and new growth in China’s SUV and luxury markets after tough times for the corporation. Barra is now capitalizing on the company’s strong performance with innovations including the release of GM’s latest electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV across the US in 2017.
Christine Lagarde, Managing director, International Monetary Fund (IMF)
Re-elected in February 2016 to a second five-year term as head of the IMF, the organization that serves as economic advisor and safeguard for 188 countries, Lagarde is another in our list of powerful women involved in finance. Whilst the world economy was still recovering from the financial crisis, and the IMF from an internal one, Lagarde has managed to enrol countries as diverse as China, Russia and Britain into the IMF’s brand of fiscal discipline. She has also addressed issues including gender and income inequality and following Brexit, Lagarde must work with a divided Europe to ensure a stable economic recovery on the continent.
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
The Harvard MBA graduate, has helped boost revenues at Facebook 66-fold since becoming COO in 2008. In November 2015 Sandberg donated 31 million dollars in Facebook stock to a charitable fund, the majority of which will go to ‘Lean In’, her non-profit that supports women in the workplace as well as women’s empowerment groups.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube, Google
Google employee No. 16 has headed up YouTube, the world’s largest video platform, since early 2014. In 2006, Wojcicki urged her bosses at Google to purchase the video site, which it did in a 1.65 billion dollar deal. Now YouTube is valued at an estimated 70 billion dollars. In October 2015, YouTube launched a new subscription service called YouTube Red to compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu.
Ana Patricia Botín, Chair, Santander Group, Banco Santander
In 2014 Botín became one of the most powerful banking executives in the world and the first woman to head the largest bank in the Eurozone. She stepped up to the position of executive chairman of financial-services for the Santander Group of Spain the day after her father Emilio Botín’s death from a heart attack, extending her family’s reign over Santander to four generations. Thanks to her efforts, the bank is the first to trial faster bitcoin-based money transfers, and has introduced innovative and more profitable checking schemes. In 2017 Botín must address economic risks in two of its biggest markets, Brazil and the UK.