For the second year running, three of the top five women on FORBES list of the world’s 100 most powerful women are politicians. In the list as a whole, 19 politicians hold court, including eight heads of state. It wasn’t a U.S. election year, which explains the exit of the Tea Party candidates who wielded considerable power in 2011, but overall more than half of the political returnees from last year’s list shot considerably up the rankings.
What does this say about the changing dynamic of women in politics around the world? In the words of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, a little something like this: “People say there are not enough qualified women, that’s one of the biggest bullshit things I’ve ever heard.”
At the top of the list German Chancellor Angela Merkelreigns supreme as the pre-eminent leader of the European Union. Her hold over the economic future of the eurozone (current GDP $17.9 trillion) was made crystal clear this year. As world leaders took turns portending the end of the Euro as currency, Merkel is fighting tooth and nail to keep it in circulation—and the economies of her fellow EU nations afloat. Germany has been behind the Greek bailout, the capitalizing of Spain’s banks and more, but in 2012 stressed the nation’s inability to bail out more declining nations and rejected proposals of pooling national debts to stave off further defaults. The way things stand, what Merkel (commonly referred to as the “Iron Lady” of Europe) says–goes.
Just behind her, falling for the second year at No. 2 on the list is U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, fourth in line to the succession of the U.S. Presidency. As the world ambassador of the largest single economy on earth, Clinton has advanced U.S. interests and policies overseas while pushing women’s issues, development and education to the top of the foreign policy agenda. Greta Van Susteren, a fellow Power Woman and friend of Clinton’s told me last year that her notoriety on the international stage is unparalleled, and makes her different from any of her predecessors. “[Clinton] might as well be the President of the United States,” she said. “The whole world knows her.” ...
Dilma Rousseff–who graces the cover of FORBES this issue--is the third most powerful woman in the world from her perch atop the world’s eighth biggest economy, but, more importantly, an economy on the rise. Brazil’s president is in the midst of an economic overhaul of her country, starting with the middle class. The economist and former Marxist guerrilla (See “The Real Deal”) has enacted new incentives to small business owners, large-scale infrastructure projects that ring of Eisenhower-Era America and child welfare initiatives that are expected to usher the country into a new era of prosperity. Soon even more eyes will be on Brazil as the nation will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics—all the more reason to get those infrastructure projects up and running.
Also in the top ten: Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress Party, which this summer condemned outbreaks of violence in the northeastern Assam region of the country between Hindu and Muslim groups (which resulted in over 300,000 displaced Indians), and Janet Napolitano, the first female head of the Department of Homeland Security and the woman responsible for keeping America’s borders (air, land, sea and cyber) well-defended. This year was a challenging one for Napolitano’s office, which in addition to reacting to the SCOTUS decision to enforce Arizona’s controversial policies on undocumented immigrants, had the added responsibility of weathering the public tragedy of July’s “Batman” shootings in Aurora, Colorado.
“I am deeply saddened by the terrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado,” said Napolitano in a statement. “Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies continue to respond to this horrific event and I have directed the Department of Homeland Security to provide any support necessary in the ongoing investigation. We are committed to bringing those responsible to justice.”
The global leadership of woman stretches far and wide, from the most prosperous of nations to smaller, aid-supported states. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina; Aung San Suu Kyi, the general secretary of the National League of Democracy in Burma; Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister of Thailand; Joyce Banda, President of Malawi (new in 2012) andEllen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia; all prove that women are not just qualified candidates for the job—but that their constituencies are behind them.
At home, women are flexing their political muscle in the White House (Michelle Obama continues her mission to overhaul the diets of America’s youth while making the rounds to court the women’s vote in November), the Senate (Nancy Pelosi is the House minority leader), in public health (Kathleen Sebelius is challenged with the implementation of ObamaCare while Margaret Hamburg fights a decline in manufacturing standards for drug makers in America and abroad) and the financial sector (Mary Schapiro heads the SEC).
While the 2012 list has a strong showing for female politicians, the big news is that looking forward, 2013 could be a banner year. While there isn’t a female candidate for President in the U.S., there are a number women running for election around the world—from South Korea to Afghanistan– who could join these ranks in the months ahead.
Forbes Lists -------PROFILE, Angela Merkel
#1 Power Women and #4Powerful People(#4 after the Presidents of the USA, Russia, and China --B. Obama, V. Putin, Hu Jintao-- and before Bill Gates, King of Saudi Arabia, Aziz al Saud, the Pope, 2 other Americans -- Bernanke and Zuckerberg, and the PM of the UK, David Cameron, #10)
Residence: Berlin, Germany
Country of Citizenship: Germany
Education: Doctorate, Leipzig University; Master of Science, Leipzig University
Marital Status: Married
The world's No. 1 Most Powerful Woman for the second year in a row, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the "Iron Lady" of Europe and the lead player in the eurozone economic drama that continues to threaten global markets.
As Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal have teetered on the brink of an economic collapse, she has vowed to do everything in her power to preserve the 17-country EU.
Merkel also called on international leaders to renew the Kyoto agreement, a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases that she helped ratify as Germany's environmental minister in the 1990s. She has been chancellor since 2005, and her recent public approval ratings soared to near 70%--a good sign leading into the general election in the fall of 2013.
Merkel is embracing the Internet, and last fall launched a YouTube channel, Die Bundesregierung, where she directly answers citizens' questions.