In announcing the top 100 most powerful women in the world, Forbes have named these power women as the top ten on the list adding that, “Democratic countries where human rights are respected and where women are able to reach top positions in society are also countries that are the best-equipped to handle crises by Covid-19.” The women on the 17th Annual list hail from 30 countries and were born across four generations.
1 Angela Merkel
Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany in 2005 and is serving her fourth term. In November 2018, Merkel stepped down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union and announced she wouldn’t seek another term as chancellor in 2021. Merkel remains the de facto leader of Europe, leading the region’s largest economy after steering Germany through financial crisis and back to growth.
Her leadership is marked by her steely reserve, from standing up to Donald Trump to allowing more than a million Syrian refugees into Germany. An October 2020 survey found 75% of adults in 14 European countries trust Merkel more than any other leader in the region. The big question that the public is now asking is who and what will come after Merkel’s time in office comes to an end.
2 Christine Largarde
Lagarde became the first woman to head the European Central Bank on November 1, 2019.As head of European monetary policy, Lagarde faces a critical test: ensuring the coronavirus pandemic does not wreak further havoc on the Euro zone. “I think 2021 will certainly be a difficult first half of the year,” she predicted in November 2020.
From 2011 until mid-2019, Lagarde ran the International Monetary Fund that works to ensure the stability of the global monetary system.She was the first woman to hold that position. On the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 bank collapse, Lagarde pointed to “groupthink” in the male-dominated industry and called for gender reform.
3 Kamala Harris
On November 7, 2020, Harris became the first woman in American history elected to the vice presidency. She’s no stranger to firsts: In 2016, Harris was the first Indian-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate. And in 2010, Harris became the first African-American and first woman to serve as California’s attorney general.
Harris is a California native; she was born in Oakland to immigrant parents (her mom was from India and her dad was from Jamaica). As a Howard University alumna, Harris will be the first graduate of a historically Black college or university to hold the vice presidency.
4 Ursula von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen was appointed president of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, in July 2019. She is the first woman to serve in the role, which is responsible for legislation affecting more than 700 million Europeans.
From 2005 until 2019, von der Leyen served in Angela Merkel’s cabinet–the longest tenure of any cabinet member. For the last six years of her time in the cabinet, she was Germany’s defense minister.In September 2020, in her first state of the union speech as commissioner, she spoke out against anti-LGBTQ policies in Poland.
5 Melinda Gates
Gates maintains her position as most powerful woman in philanthropy as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Founded in 2000, it’s the world’s largest private charitable foundation with a $40 billion trust endowment.
She’s increasingly visible in shaping foundation strategy, solving tough global challenges from education and poverty to contraception and sanitation.
As part of the foundation’s mission to help all people lead healthy, productive lives, she has devoted much of her work to women’s and girls’ rights. In her next chapter, Gates’ mission is to close the funding gap for female founders, through her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures.
6 Mary Barra
GM’s CEO since 2014, Barra is the first woman to lead one of the big three automakers in the U.S.Barra has invested billions in electric vehicles, self-driving cars and a ride-share service called Maven. In spring 2020, she shifted GM’s production lines to help Ventec Life Systems make critically-needed ventilators. Having earned $21.6 million in 2019, Barra has the highest compensation of any leader of a Detroit Big Three automaker.
7 Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi is the 52nd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The role makes her the highest-ranking elected woman in the country and the second-in-line for the presidency. She started her third term as Speaker in 2019; she previously held the position from 2007 to 2011.
In 2019, she initiated the fourth-ever impeachment proceedings in U.S. history against President Donald Trump. In 2013, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Seneca Falls.
8 Ana Patricia Botín
Botín became chair of the company in 2014, after the sudden death of her father, Emilio. She pulled off a coup in 2017 when Banco Santander acquired failing Banco Popular (BP) for 1 euro to become Spain’s largest bank. In the face of political unrest, she has championed fintech and focused on entrepreneurs, backing small enterprise and women-owned businesses.
9 Abigail Johnson
Abigail Johnson has served as CEO of Fidelity Investments since 2014, when she took over for her father, and has been chairman since 2016. Her grandfather, Edward Johnson II, founded the Boston-based mutual fund giant in 1946. She owns an estimated 24.5% stake of the firm, which has nearly $2.9 trillion in managed assets.
Johnson has embraced cryptocurrencies and, in 2018, Fidelity launched a platform that allows institutional investors to trade bitcoin and ether. She worked summers at Fidelity through college and joined full-time as an analyst in 1988 after receiving a Harvard M.B.A.
10 Gail Boudreaux
Boudreaux was named CEO of Anthem in 2017. She was previously CEO of UnitedHealthcare, the largest division within UnitedHealth Group. It’s one of the nation’s largest health insurers and has completed acquisitions of America’s 1st Choice, HealthSun and Aspire Health.
The Anthem Foundation Awards announced over $53 million in grants to address critical health issues facing Americans.
With her industry experience, she has earned plaudits from peers and Wall Street alike; in the first two years of her tenure, the stock popped 20%.