“Power” is one of those terms that too often gets spread around to different aspects of our lives. How, as an example, can a woman who has made her fortune and her name in the world of entertainment be placed on the same list as female who are heads of state? The answer to that question is easier to understand than you may first think. We live in a social media age in which top-tier celebrities continue to grow in influence with every year, and that trend will only continue as those with fame and fortune find new ways to expand their brands and make more money in the process.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that top spots of the 2015 Forbes’ list of the most powerful women in the world are filled by politicians. One has held the No. 1 ranking on the website’s list for a decade, and she is the longest-serving elected head of state in all of the European Union. That woman may, however, find herself soon fall in the Forbes list if a certain American woman is able to win what is perceived by many to be the top political position on the earth. The United States made history in a presidential election back in 2008, and that could again happen in 2016.
20. Marilyn Hewson
The Chairwoman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin rose one spot in the Forbes list of most powerful women in the world from a year ago. One reason for this is that Marilyn Hewson helped the defense contractor that is the largest in the world post record profits while at the same time managing to cut costs. Hewson joined the company back in 1983, where she rose through the ranks for roughly 30 years before she became the first woman CEO at Lockheed. The 61-year old will only continue to rise up the ranks in the Forbes list at this rate.
19. Abigail Johnson
Forbes listed the net worth of Abigail Johnson to be at $13.3 billion as of late May 2015. That alone is probably good enough to get the President and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Investments in the top-19 of this piece. Johnson replaced her father as the CEO of the company in the fall of 2014, which played a part in her rising 15 spots from the 2014 Forbes list. That gig was hers to take for some time, although that is not to suggest that she did not work her way up through the company. Her grandfather founded Fidelity back in 1946.
18. Ana Botin
Ana Botin is one of 19 newcomers to the Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world for 2015. Ranked at No. 77 by the website back in 2011, Botin rises due to the fact that she was appointed Executive Chairwoman of the Santander Group in September 2014 following the death of her father. The Spanish businesswoman earned her collegiate education in the United States, and she worked in the country before returning to Spain and to Santander, the banking group that has now, following her appointment, been run by members of her family for four generations.
17. Irene Rosenfeld
The name “Mondelez International” may not, on the surface, mean all that much to you unless you are a business mogul or you just love to snack. That conglomerate manages all kinds of recognizable food and beverage brands, including the following: Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Triscuit, Trident, Stride and Tang. Irene Rosenfeld is the woman tasked with leading Mondelez into the future, serving as its current Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer. Mondelez was in the headlines in May of 2014 when it was announced that it had formed a partnership with coffeemaker D.E. Master Blenders.
16. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
The second female president of Argentina has not been without scandal during her reign as the head political figure of the country. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been accused of covering up information regarding the bombing of a Jewish center located in Argentina that occurred back in 1994. Kirchner, according to those allegations, helped protect Iranian officials who have been linked with that bombing. While allegations of a supposed terrorism cover-up have been dropped, the investigation has not been without controversy. The lead prosecutor was found dead back in January, and his family have referred to his death as an assassination.
15. Indra Nooyi
Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo: Seems like a dream job, yes? Indra Nooyi obviously is not hurting for money these days, but she and others within the company now have to find new ways to get consumers to buy into products that have been deemed to be “bad” for the public. It is all about eating healthy these days, and that is especially true for members of the younger generation. The days of being able to pick up a Pepsi or a bag of Frito-Lay snacks in any school in the United States simply by inserting a dollar bill into a machine are coming to an end.
14. Meg Whitman
Long before she took over as the Chairwoman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman obtained the roles of CEO and President of eBay. That stint went rather well for her and the company, and Whitman helped eBay grow into a company that became, according to Forbes, worth around $8 billion in revenue. The Hewlett-Packard CEO who earned her education at Princeton and Harvard has also been involved in the political game, even once running for Governor of California. That did not end to her liking, but her reported net worth of $2.1 billion likely eases the pain of losing an election.
13. Ginni Rometty
Ginni Rometty has had a rough go of it since taking over as the President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM back in 2012. The company recently checked in at fourth on the BrandZ Top 100 Valuable Global Brands of 2015 list, which on its own is not bad news. What is worrisome is that the company has been referred to as being a “weak investment” heading into the summer months of 2015. Rometty fell from 10th in 2014 to 13th in the 2015 Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world. Is she destined to continue to drop in such lists over the next couple of years?
12. Oprah Winfrey
She is the first and perhaps the only woman featured in this piece who is recognized immediately by her first name. The undisputed queen of daytime television has silenced her critics time and time again during her legendary career in the entertainment industry, and the Oprah Winfrey brand is one that is worth billions – yes, billions – of dollars. Along with her numerous successes in the fields of television and movies that have been blessed by the Oprah golden touch, Winfrey is also praised for her philanthropy. She has, according to Forbes, donated hundreds of millions of dollars to a variety of causes.
11. Park Geun-hye
It has been over a year since the Sewol ferry disaster that claimed over 300 lives, and the first female president in the history of South Korea is continuing to be going through a downtrend as it pertains to her popularity in the country. Park Geun-hye found herself in a position where she was forced to apologize in April 2015 because of a bribery scandal that came following the resignation of former prime minister Lee Wan-Koo. Park hit a new low in popularity early in 2015, when her approval rating shrunk to 30 percent, her lowest since taking office.
10. Michelle Obama
Her husband’s time in the Oval Office may be running out, but nobody should be forgetting about the First Lady just yet. Michelle Obama has continued to be an active member of the White House, serving as an advocate for awareness on matters such as homelessness, childhood nutrition and poverty. Mrs. Obama has also not stayed away from touching on what could be more controversial matters such as race and gender equality. She has, in several ways, been a First Lady unlike any before her, and Mrs. Obama is showing zero signs of slowing down during the final stages of her husband’s presidency.
9. Susan Wojcicki
Susan Wojcicki remains in the top-ten of the Forbes’ most power women for another year, and it is easy to understand why she will likely retain that spot for the foreseeable future. Wojcicki is serving as the Chief Executive Office of YouTube, and the Google-owned company continues to be the top online video platform in the world. YouTube, like Google, has become a verb in circles – “YouTube it” – and the video site is now, according to Forbes, worth around $20 billion. Forbes reports that Wojcicki has a net worth in the neighborhood of $300 million. Remember that the next time you see an ad blocking you from instantly accessing a YouTube video. That money has to come from somewhere.
8. Sheryl Sandberg
Social media aficionados and also fans of the National Basketball Association may be more familiar with Sheryl Sandberg than they realize. Sandberg, who once served as an executive at Google, became the first woman to work on the Facebook board in 2008. She is also a founder of LeanIn.org, a campaign that is working to further gender equality across all avenues. The NBA has teamed up with the WNBA for the LeanIn project, and commercials featuring professional athletes and also celebrities have been featured on television during the basketball regular seasons and playoffs.
7. Dilma Rousseff
The first woman to hold the office of the presidency in the country of Brazil was reelected in October of 2014. By March of the following years, millions of Brazilian citizens were taking to the streets to protest Dilma Rousseff, members of government accused of corruption, and an economy that has been on a downtrend in recent years. Those marches occurred less than a year after citizens filled the streets in different Brazilian cities in anger over the country holding the 2014 FIFA World Cup when so many in Brazil are stuck in poverty. Rousseff’s approval ratings dropped all the way down to 13% in recent months according to Forbes.
6. Christine Lagarde
Christine Lagarde is more likely than not assured of a spot in at least the top-six of such lists so long as she holds her current post. The French lawyer was elected the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund back in 2011, and the first woman to ever head the IMF is entering what will be the final year of her first term. Lagarde made headlines in the first month of 2015 when she stated that the deceased King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia “was a strong believer in pushing forward women’s rights.” Those comments did not sit well with some human rights campaigners.
5. Mary Barra
The first ever Chief Executive Officer of a “Big 8” automaker did not have an easy go of it after assuming that position in January of 2014. General Motors announced 84 safety recalls in North America, one that affected nearly 27 million vehicles in the United States. Mara Barra was called to appear before the US Senate after no fewer than 74 deaths were blamed on faulty ignition switches. Things steadied out for GM and for Barra as the year went on, and she rose from seventh in last year’s Forbes list to fifth for 2015. One of her ideas for the future: Pairing up with Apple.
4. Janet Yellen
One of the many individuals featured in this list to make history during her lifetime, Janet Yellen became the first woman in history to hold the position of Chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors when she was sworn in back in February of 2014. She had served as Vice Chair from 2010 until her confirmation. Yellen announced in May of 2015 that, as had been expected, The Fed will raise interest rates sooner rather than later to “begin the process of normalizing monetary policy.” She represents the first of three American women to crack into the top-four of this year’s list.
3. Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates holds her place as No. 3 in the Forbes list. The co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is tasked with running that organization, and she has been widely praised for her contributions all around the world. Gates, through the foundation, gave around $3.9 billion in 2014 according to Forbes. Forbes also states that the foundation has been responsible for over $33 billion in grant payments since it was founded in 2000. Melinda and her husband Bill were announced as joint Padma Vibhushan awardees in January 2015. That is second highest civilian award in the country of India.
2. Hillary Clinton
It is almost a guarantee that Hillary Clinton will either be rising or falling in this Forbes list over the next couple of years. The former First Lady who went on to become a US Senator and US Secretary of State is the presumptive favorite to emerge as the Democratic front-runner in the upcoming presidential race, and she may very well be the favorite to win the race when all is said and done. With the Republican party having yet to put out a strong opponent in the eyes of some political insiders, Clinton could prove to be difficult to beat despite the “Emailgate” scandal.
1. Angela Merkel
The Chancellor of Germany has, according to Forbes, been the world’s most powerful woman for the past decade. One will earn such high praise when she manages to clinch three consecutive four-year terms. Angela Merkel has publicly hit out against ISIS, and she said the following about a stunt that involved Merkel and Vladimir Putin back in 2007: “I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man. He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.” Only one woman can take Merkel’s spot atop this list, and that will only happen if Mrs. Clinton is able to win the US Presidency.