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The 20 Most Powerful Women in the World

There are women across the globe who are hugely successful in their chosen fields and this means they are extremely powerful and influential. Women who are at the top of their game are in a position not only to achieve their personal goals but to also impact on the lives of many others. Each year, Forbes devises a list of the most powerful women in the world based on both their personal success and the way in which their position can impact on others. This list of women consists of politicians, philanthropists, and business people from every industry. Here are the 20 most powerful women in the world right now.

20. Adena Friedman

Adena Friedman is currently the CEO and president of Nasdaq. She is also the former CFO and managing director of The Carlyle Group. She was born in 1969 and raised in Baltimore where she attended Roland Park County School. At Williams College, she earned her BA in political science and was then awarded an MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. She is married to Michael Cameron Friedman and the couple has two sons. Nasdaq is an American stock exchange that is the second largest in the world and is only behind New York Stock Exchange. The company was founded in 1971 and is based at One Liberty Square in New York City.

19. Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump is the daughter of Donald Trump, the President of the United States, and model Ivana Trump, who was Donald Trump’s first wife. Ivanka Trump was born in New York City on October 30, 1981. Trump studied at Georgetown University and then at the University of Pennsylvania to earn her bachelor’s degree in economics. She is now a model, a businesswoman, and an advisor to the President of the United States. She was formerly an executive vice president of the family business, The Trump Organization and is the fourth generation of her family involved in this business. Her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Christ Trump, founded the business and her grandfather, Fred Trump, then took over the reins. Donald Trump was next in line to lead the business to success and Ivanka followed in his footsteps. In addition to her work in business and politics, Ivanka Trump has also become a television personality as appearing as one of the judges on ‘The Apprentice’ with her father. Ivanka Trump married Jared Kushner in 2009 and they have a daughter and two sons together. Kushner is also a Senior Advisor to the President.

18. Safra Catz

Safra Catz has been an executive of the Oracle Corporation since 1999 and was made a board member two years later. She was then made chief financial officer and co-president in 2011. In 2014, it was announced that Larry Ellison, the founder and CEO, was stepping down ant that Safra Catz and Mark Hurd would take over as the new CEOs. Catz was born in Holon, Israel, on December 1, 1961. At the age of six, she moved to Massachusetts. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania followed by a J.D from the university’s law school. She began her career as a banker at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and was the managing director of this company between 1997 and 1999. In 2011, she was the highest paid woman in the Fortune 100 companies. She is married to Gal Tirosh and has two children.

17. Federica Mogherini

Federica Mogherini is an Italian politician who is a member of the Democratic Party and is part of the Party of European Socialists. She was born in Rome on June 16, 1973. Between 2008 and 2014 she was a Member of the Chamber of Deputies. She was then the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation between February and October of 2014. Since November 2014, she has served Italy as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She showed an interest in politics from a young age and was a member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation from 1988. When this was dissolved in 1996, she joined the Youth Left. She attended the Sapienza University of Rome and gained a degree in political science. Federica Mogherini is married to Matteo Rebesani and they have two children.

16. Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet was born as Veronica Michelle Bachelet Jeria in Chile on September 29, 1951. She is a Chilean politician. She has been the President of Chile since March 11, 2014. This is not the first time she has been the president as she was also President of Chile between 2006 and 2010. As she has had this role twice, she is the first woman in history to have done so. Furthermore, she was the first person to win the presidency of Chile twice since 1932. Between her two periods of the presidency, she had to take a different role as she was not immediately re-electable for the presidency. Instead, she became the first executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, which was newly created. Previously, she has held the positions of Health Minister and Defense Minister. She is also a mother of three and can speak English, German, Italian, French, and Portuguese, in addition to her native Spanish.

15. Tsai Ing-wen

Tsai Ing-wen is the President of Taiwan and she was born on August 31, 1956. She has achieved a long list of ‘firsts’ during her career. Some of these include that she is the first president of both aboriginal and Hakka descent, she is the first woman elected to the office, she is the first unmarried president, and the first to not have held an executive position before presidency. She is also the first president to serve without previously serving as the Mayor of Taipei. Tsai Ing-wen studied law and international trade and then became a law professor at both Soochow University School of Law and National Chengchi. This highly intelligent woman then earned her LLB from National Taiwan University, her LLM degree from Cornell Law School, and then obtained her Ph.D. in law by attending London School of Economics and Political Science. She assumed office as president on May 20, 2016.

14. Laurene Powell Jobs

Laurene Powell Jobs became known as the wife of Steve Jobs who was the co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc. However, she is a businesswoman and executive in her own right as well as being the founder of the Emerson Collective. This is an organization that advocates for policies concerning social justice, immigration reform, education, and environmental conservation. In addition to these roles, she also manages the Laurene Powell Jobs Trust and is the co-founder and president of the Board of College Track. The latter helps to prepare high school students from a disadvantaged background for college. She was married to Steve Jobs from 1991 until his death in 2011 and the couple had three children together.

13. Angela Ahrendts

Angela Ahrendts is one of the most successful and powerful women in business. She was born on June 7, 1960, in New Palestine, Indiana. This businesswoman is now the Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple Inc. and has worked for this company since 2014. Prior to this, she was the CEO of Burberry and held this position from 2006 to 2014. She is also a former member of the UK’s Prime Minister’s business advisory council until 2016 when it was disbanded. She is married to Gregg Couch and has three children. Ahrendts has homes in both California and London.

12. Meg Whitman

Margaret Whitman was born in Huntington, New York, on August 4, 1956. She is now a business executive, a political activist, and a philanthropist. Since November 20, 2017, she announced she would be serving as the CEO and President of Hewlett Packard Enterprises. However, she only began to serve effectively on February 1, 2018. She studied at both Princeton University and Harvard Business School before beginning her career as a brand manager for Procter & Gamble in 1979. She then worked as a consultant for Bain & Company, rising to the position of senior vice president. Other companies for whom she has worked include The Walt Disney Company, Stride Rite Corporation, Florist’ Transworld Delivery, and eBay. She has been married to Griffith Harsh since 1980 and they two children.

11. Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi was born on October 28, 1955, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, and has United States citizenship. She is a business executive and currently holds the positions of Chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo. This is the second largest food and beverage business by net revenue in the world. She has also joined the International Cricket Council as its first female independent director in February 2018. She has consistently ranked in the Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world for several years and has a net worth of $144 million. Her annual salary is in the region of $30 million. She gained a BS from the Madras Christian College, an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, and an MS from Yale University.

10. Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty is the chairman, president and CEO of IBM and is the first woman to lead this company. She has held these positions since January 2012. Prior to holding these positions, she was the senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy for the same company. She originally joined in 1981 and worked as a systems engineer. She earns a salary of approximately $32.7 million a year which is inclusive of stock awards. She gained a bachelor’s degree in computing science and electrical engineering with high honors in 1979 from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. She is married to Mark Anthony Rometty who is a principal investor in the Bam Oil Company.

9. Ana Patricia Botin

Ana Patricia Botin is a Spanish banker who was appointed as the executive chairwoman of Santander Group o September 10, 2014. She is the fourth generation of her family to hold this position. Prior to becoming executive chairwoman, she was appointed the CEO of Santander UK in December 2010. She has gradually risen through the ranks of the world’s most powerful women as she was in 99th position in 2005 and is now considered the 9th most powerful woman in the world. Although Santander is her family business, this is not the only company she has worked for during her career. She originally spent eight years working for JP Morgan and then worked at the Spanish bank, Banesto. She has also been a director of the Coca-Cola Company since 2013. Botin was born in Santander, Spain, on October 4, 1960. She is married to Guillermo Morenes Mariategui and they have three sons; Felipe, Javier, and Pablo.

8. Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde was born in Paris, France, on January 1, 1956. She is a lawyer and politician who was appointed as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund in July 2011 and is the first woman to ever hold this position. Prior to this she had held a variety of ministerial positions for the French government. These included the roles of Minister of Trade, Minister of Agriculture and Fishing, and Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment. She has earned a staggering four Masters Degrees. The first three were obtained at the Paris West University Nanterre La Defense. These were in the subjects of English, labor law, and social law. Her final Masters Degree was from the Institut d’etudes politiques d’Aix-en-Provence. She has been married and divorced twice to Wilfred Lagarde and Eachran Gilmour. She has two children.

7. Abigail Johnson

Abigail Johnson is the president and chief executive officer of the US investment film Fidelity Investments and also the chairwoman of Fidelity International. These are positions she has held since 2014. Johnson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 19, 1961. Fidelity is a family company as it was founded by her grandfather, Edward C. Johnson II, in 1946 and the Johnson family retain a 49% stake in the company. Abigail Johnson was named as the chairman of the company in November 2016, but also still holds the positions of president and CEO. For this reason, she has full responsibility for the company and its 45,000 international employees. She is one of the wealthiest women in the world with a personal net worth of approximately $19.8 billion. Before joining the company in 1988, she studied for a degree in art history at Hobart and William Smith. When she joined the company, she trained under her grandfather as an analyst and portfolio manager. She married Christopher John McKown in 1988 and they have two children together.

6. Susan Wojcicki

Susan Wojcicki was born in Santa Clara County in California on July 5, 1968. This technology executive became the CEO of YouTube in February 2014. She studied for a bachelor’s degree at Harvard College followed by an M.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She then went on to obtain her MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, famously started their business in Susan Wojcicki’s garage in 1998. Wojcicki became their first marketing manager and is also responsible for the first Google Doodles. Prior to joining Google, she had worked at Inte and at Bain & Company. Wojcicki held many positions at Google, including senior vice president of Advertising & Commerce. She also oversaw the Google Video service. Their main competitor was YouTube and she suggested that Google bought this company. They acquired the company for $1.65 billion and put Wojcicki in charge of it. She now has a net worth of $410 million. She has been married to Dennis Troper since 1998 and they have five children together.

5. Mary Barra

Mary Barra was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, on December 24, 1961. She currently holds the positions of Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company and is the first woman to become a CEO of a major global automaker. She has held this position since January 15, 2014. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering form the General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University, and then received her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990. She has worked for General Motors since the age of 18 and has gradually risen through the ranks to achieve her current position. She is married to Anthony Barra and has two children.

4. Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg is a technology executive, an activist, and an author. She was born in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1969. She currently holds the position of chief operating officer of Facebook and is the founder of the Lean In Foundation. She became the first female to serve on the board of directors of Facebook when she was elected in by the existing board members in June 2012. Prior to joining the social media network, she worked at Google as the vice president of global online sales and operations. She has become one of the most influential women in the world and it is reported that she is now worth approximately $1 billion. Sheryl Sandberg has been married twice. She was first married to Brian Kraff from 1993 to 1994. She then married Dave Goldberg in 2004 but divorced in 2015. She has two children with her second husband.

3. Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates was born in Dallas, Texas, on August 15, 1964. She is a philanthropist and a former Microsoft employee. She has been married to Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, since 1994 and they have three children together. During her time working at Microsoft, she was the project manager for Microsoft Bob, Encarta, and Expedia. She is also the co-founder and co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Both Melinda and her husband received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 from President Barrack Obama for their philanthropic efforts. Melinda Gates has also received an honorary doctorate in medicine from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

2. Theresa May

Theresa May is the Leader of the British Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She was born in Eastbourne, Sussex, on October 1, 1956, and studied for a degree in geography at St. Hugh’s College at the University of Oxford. She first became a Member of Parliament in the general election of 1997. She became the second female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in July 2016 and succeeded David Cameron. She landed the leadership after a minority win which meant she was forced to broker a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Prior to becoming a politician, she worked for the Bank of England between 1985 and 1997. Her first step into politics was as a councillor for Durnsford ward in London between 1986 and 1994 and was originally a member of the Labour party. She has been married to Philip May since 1980 and they have no children.

1. Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union and is the politician serving as the Chancellor of Germany. She is also the de facto leader of the European Union. These are positions that mean she is now considered the most powerful woman in the world and is also referred to as the leader of the Free World. Merkel was born in Hamburg, West Germany, on July 17, 1954, and has a doctorate in quantum chemistry. She became the Chancellor of Germany following the 2005 federal election. This made her the first female Chancellor at the head of the grand coalition. She was appointed President of the European Council in 2007. In her personal life, she married physics student in 1977 Ulrich Merkel when she was just 23. Although they divorced in 1982, she kept his surname. She met her second husband, Joachim Sauer, in 1981 and they married in 1998. Merkel and Sauer do not have any children together, but he has two sons from a previous relationship.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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