The World’s Most Powerful Women

Forbes just published its annual list of the most powerful women in the world, so, let’s take a quick look at the rankings:

"The most powerful woman in the world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, tops the list for the third year running as the ranking democratically elected female leader. Sheila Bair, head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the embattled U.S. bank-deposit insurer, debuts in second place as she tries to stave off financial panic amid a worldwide credit crisis.

At No. 3, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo is the highest-ranked woman in business as she expands the food and beverage giant internationally to counter a decline in Americans’ preference for soda and chips.

Angela Braly (No. 4), the head of big health insurer WellPoint, suffered a setback this spring when her downward revision of financial forecasts caused a stock tumble, sparking investor and employee ire.

At No. 5, Cynthia Carroll is leading mining giant Anglo-American to riches in the commodities boom. Kraft chief Irene Rosenfeld (No. 6), is slowly turning around the mac ‘n cheese maker in her second year on the job, scoring a big hit in China with a new Oreo.

In the last few months of her tenure, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (No. 7) faces a myriad of diplomatic flare-ups: an unstable Pakistan, a bellicose Russia and the long-smoldering Middle East peace question. Ho Ching (No. 8), the head of Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek, has been moving more of the city-state’s money abroad and now owns 15% of Merrill Lynch.

In France, Areva head Anne Lauvergeon (No. 9) has been dealing with public fallout from this summer’s leaks at two nuclear plants, even as France has announced plans to build more. Anne Mulcahy (No. 10) has doubled her research and development budget to focus on color printing and eco-friendly technologies.

These women top a far-flung list that comprises 54 businesswomen and 23 politicians, with the rest being media execs and personalities and nonprofit leaders. A third are newcomers to the rankings; this reflects not only new top positions for women, such as Starcom MediaVest’s Laura Desmond (No. 55) and Enterprise’s Pamela Nicholson (No. 93), but also the increasingly global reach of this list, with more women from outside the U.S. rising to worldwide prominence.

Just under half the women ranked this year are based outside of the U.S. Top countries represented include the U.K. (five women), China (four), France, India and the Netherlands (three apiece). Morocco has its first ranked woman this year: Hynd Bouhia (No. 29), director-general of the Casablanca Stock Exchange.

Candidates for our list are globally recognized women at the top of their fields: chief executives and their highest-ranked lieutenants, elected officials, nonprofit leaders. They don’t have to be rich, but they do have to wield significant influence. This year, an architect, a war correspondent and several foundation executives all won spots on the list.

We measure power as a composite of public profile–calculated using press mentions–and financial heft. This year, for instance, the woman with the highest public profile is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, No. 28, who garnered intense media scrutiny for her failed U.S. presidential bid."

All told, these women control $28 trillion worldwide.

The full list (with pictures) is here.

This list is certainly a tribute to corporate power and globalization.

Michelle Obama will probably make the list next year.

Some others who did not make the cut: Ellen Malcolm, founder of EMILY’s List, Cindy McCain, Sarah Palin, Navanethen Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner.

Nancy Pelosi ranks 35 and Oprah Winfrey, 36. Aung San Suu Kyi is number 38. Laura Bush at 44. Queen Elizabeth II (according to Forbes, occupation: "Queen") is number 58.

Meredith Vieira ranks 61, Katie Couric, 62, Barbara Walters at 63 and Diane Sawyer at 65… really? I think this overestimates these women’s influence on a global scale.

Very few academics (I spotted one). But those of us who are part of academia know that this is not the most progressive environment for women, to say the least.

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