Forbes List of 100 Most Powerful Women

Forbes has produced its 2007 list of the world’s most powerful women. At the top of the list is Angela Merkel. I can understand Forbes’s reasoning. As the head of government of country with the world’s third largest economy (and the largest in Europe). She’s a good pick.

I can also understand Forbes’s pick of Wu Yi, Vice Premier of China, for the second spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s actually got more real power than Angela Merkel does.

Here’s the Top 20:

1 Angela Merkel Chancellor Germany
2 Wu Yi Vice premier China
3 Ho Ching Chief executive, Temasek Holdings Singapore
4 Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State U.S.
5 Indra K. Nooyi Chairman, chief executive, PepsiCo U.S.
6 Sonia Gandhi President, Congress Party India
7 Cynthia Carroll Chief executive, Anglo American U.K.
8 Patricia A. Woertz Chairman, Archer Daniels Midland U.S.
9 Irene Rosenfeld Chairman, chief executive, Kraft Foods U.S.
10 Patricia Russo Chief executive, Alcatel-Lucent U.S.
11 Michèle Alliot-Marie Minister for the Interior and overseas territories France
12 Christine Lagarde Minister of economy, finance and employment France
13 Anne M. Mulcahy Chairman, chief executive, Xerox U.S.
14 Anne Lauvergeon Chief executive, Areva France
15 Mary Sammons Chairman, chief executive, president, Rite Aid Corp. U.S.
16 Angela Braly Chief executive, president, WellPoint U.S.
17 Marjorie Scardino Chief executive, Pearson PLC U.K.
18 Wu Xiaoling Deputy governor, People’s Bank of China China
19 Brenda Barnes Chairman, chief executive, Sara Lee Corp. U.S.
20 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme court justice U.S.

I think there are a few problems with the list. For example, I think the compilers of the list overestimate the actual powers of government officials in Western constitutional democracies. Is Condoleeza Rice really the fourth most powerful woman in the world? And more powerful than Nancy Pelosi at 26th? I have my doubts. Also, there doesn’t appear to be much distinction made between power and influence. Oprah Winfrey has no power. She commands no armies, enacts no laws. But her influence is enormous.

Some are just puzzling. Queen Elizabeth II (another example of relatively little power but enormous influence) has gone from from 46th last year to 23rd this. Is she really that much more powerful than last year?

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