For the 20th consecutive year, Forbes has compiled its ranking of the 100 most powerful women in the world. A list that, this year in particular, showed a complex, and unstable, picture of women’s socio-political, cultural and economic influence.
Four main parameters taken into consideration: money, media influence, impact and scope.
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Taylor Swift: in fifth place the billionaire pop star
Occupying diverse positions in multiple fields such as politics, entertainment, finance, health and philanthropy, to name a few, this year’s leaders raise some questions, however. For example, it gives one pause to reflect that in fifth place, right after a political leader like Italian PM Giorgia Meloni, is Taylor Swift. Reflect yes, but not surprise.
If it was news just a few days ago that a course dedicated to the phenomenon to be generated by the singer at Harvard University will be introduced from next semester, in late September, thanks to a story on Instagram, the superstar generated record traffic on the Vote.org platform, registering more than 35 thousand new voters going to the polls in 2024.
A kind of influence, then, that the singer has strengthened in fields far removed well from pure entertainment. Let us not forget that in the latest Forbes ranking of the richest self-made women, 33-year-old Taylor Swift, with a net worth of $740 million, was ranked 34th.
Swift embodies a new kind of influence, certainly different than traditional political and corporate power, whose economic impact this year has been astounding. Her Eras tour netted a record $850 million, boosting U.S. GDP by more than $5 billion. Finally, according to Forbes estimates, her wealth is now worth more than $1.1 billion.
Other political figures: Ursula von der Leyen in first place
In this year’s ranking, other names related to the political sphere include European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (in first place), European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde (No. 2), and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (No. 3).
What emerges, however, is a stark difference in numbers from previous years and a clear dearth of women in top political roles. Ten years ago, for example, five women headed nations among the top 25 global economies.
While today that number has shrunk to just one. Only 13 of the 193 member states of the United Nations, moreover, are led by women heads of government today.
An unstable leadership framework
Between January and April, political leaders Sanna Marin, Jacinda Ardern, and Nicola Sturgeon lost or relinquished their positions overseeing Finland, New Zealand, and Scotland.
Susan Wojcicki stepped down as CEO of YouTube after nine years, and so did Martina Merz, CEO of German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp. Each of them has been replaced by a man.
But there is also some good news. In May, Robyn Grew became the first woman to lead the Man Group, a hedge fund with $161 billion in assets. And in June, U.S. Army veteran Debra Crew took the helm of alcohol giant Diageo, becoming one of the few women CEO of the 100 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange.
Beyoncé’s power and the Barbie figure
Beyoncé jumped to No. 36, up from 80th place in 2022. Her wealth comes from successes in her music career and more recently from her Ivy Park clothing line, which cut ties with Adidas since March by disappointing in revenues. Beyoncé has also broken the record for the most Grammys won: 32 as of February 2023.
But what about Barbie? “Barbie occupies the No. 100 spot, the position assigned each year to a figure who is not the traditional image of power but has nevertheless come to define a year,” says Forbes.
Last year, the same position was held by Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman whose arrest in Tehran for opposing the hijab, and subsequent death, sparked protests around the world.
Here are the top ten most powerful women in the world for Forbes:
- Ursula von der Leyen, Belgium
- Christine Lagarde, Germany
- Kamala Harris, United States
- Giorgia Meloni, Italy
- Taylor Swift, United States
- Karen Lynch, United States
- Jane Fraser, United States
- Abigail Johnson, United States
- Mary Barra, United States
- Melinda French Gates, United States