Business, fashion, and power: Women have indeed come a long way in just the past century, becoming major leaders in just about every sector of our society. In this list, we look at the 10 most influential women in the world today.
Merkel was the first woman to hold the title of Chancellor of Germany, but her life can't be defined by one simple “first.” Throughout her life, Merkel has been awarded 9 different honors, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding from India, the President’s Medal from Israel, the Royal Norwegian Order of Meri, the Order of Prince Henry from Portugal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the United States. In 2012 and 2015, Merkel was ranked as the world’s second most powerful person by Forbes, a ranking that no other woman in history had been granted. With a list of accomplishments a mile long, including pulling Germany out of a recession, and a doctorate in chemistry, Merkel continues to earn her spot as one of the world’s most influential women.
For over 30 years, Oprah Winfrey was the undisputed queen of daytime talk. Rising from a small Chicago station, Oprah emerged as one of the most recognizable women in the world. Her Book Club helped jettison dozens of little-known authors into best-seller status, while her show helped (for better or worse) turn Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz into household names. Some even see her 2007 endorsement of then-senator Barack Obama as a crucial factor in his win in the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as eventually becoming president of the U.S. Think about that: How powerful is THAT? Pretty good for a girl who hailed from Nowhere, Mississippi.
Marissa Mayer may very well be the most recognizable businesswoman in the world. Mayer hailed from a successful career at Google, helping lay out the company’s ingeniously simple search page and creating a celebrated mentorship program before being passed up for a well-deserved promotion in 2011. In 2012, Yahoo! hired Mayer to help lead a turnaround at the troubled online company. Mayer’s front-and-center role made her the most prominent businesswomen in the tech industry, receiving feature coverage from the likes of Forbes, Time, and Vanity Fair. With a net worth of almost $400 million, rest assured: no matter how her tenure at Yahoo! ends up, Mayer will be a critical force in the business world for years to come.
Hillary “Hilldog” Clinton may have taken some bruises over an e-mail scandal, but that doesn’t discount her as a frontrunner for the 2016 US presidential race, which could make her the first female U.S president. While she started as a First Lady, Hillary Clinton quickly set herself apart from husband Bill Clinton, becoming a US senator in 2001, a presidential contender in 2007, and US secretary of state in 2009. Fast-forward to 2015 and Hillary Clinton is back in the presidential race. By the summer of 2015, Clinton amassed a campaign “war chest” of around $50 million in primary money, thanks to a huge pool of supporters, mostly from big corporations. Her adeptness to Washington’s byzantine politics have made her a major player in American government - and the world.
A First Lady’s bound to be on this list somewhere. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard, Michelle Obama worked in virtually all sectors of Chicago life, from municipal government to academia. Since entering the White House, Michelle has tackled the American child obesity epidemic with "Let’s Move!", a program to improve student lunches and increase activities in schools across the nation. She has also helped bring to life critical international issues, including the abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria and LGBT rights. It’s not only what Michelle Obama’s spotlighted for that’s made her influential - it’s how she’s done it, embracing social media to reach out to not just an American audience, but a global one.
For over three decades, Anna Wintour has shaped popular fashion around the world. The daughter of a London news editor, Wintour was thrust into fashion journalism in the “Swinging Sixties.” After stints at Harper’s Bazaar and New York Magazine, Wintour was tasked with turning around Vogue. Wintour did that and more, reviving the troubled publication and turning it. and, by association, herself into the most influential voice of high-fashion. Basically, Anna Wintour is the authority on what’s in and what’s out - and you definitely don’t want to be what’s out. Wintour’s tyrannical influence came to light in the book, and later film, The Devil Wears Prada. Though she’s often demonized for her haughty style, Wintour’s cultural influence is undeniable.
Outside of Fallon, Kimmel - the most influential TV talk show host of today is, without a doubt, Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen’s influence emerged a decade earlier when, at the peak of her comedic career in the 1990s, she came out as a lesbian. Since then, DeGeneres has become one of, if not the most visible celebrity advocate of LGBT rights and anti-bullying. Since Oprah’s retirement in 2011, Ellen has filled the afternoon void to become daytime talk’s reigning queen, and one of television’s obvious go-to’s for singers, actors, and politicians.
Beyonce has come a long way since her days with Destiny’s Child, becoming the most recognizable R&B entertainer in the world. Beyonce made her first breakthrough with Destiny’s Child in the late ‘90s with hits like “Say My Name” and “Bootylicious.” Five years later, Beyonce made the successful jump to solo stardom with the album Dangerously in Love. Since then, Beyonce has gone on to sell nearly 120 million albums globally, while receiving nearly 200 awards in the process. In 2008, Beyonce cemented her pop culture status when she married hip-hop’s top mogul, Jay Z. If there was ever a queen of pop entertainment, Beyonce is it.
Actress, director, writer, stateswoman: Angelina Jolie is all of those things. While her entry into spotlight was odd, marked by a bizarre relationship with her brother and a chaotic marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, Jolie’s breakthrough success in the 2000s saw her branch into more serious (and meaningful) roles with the United Nations, World Economic Forum, and Harnas Wildlife Foundation. Jolie’s fame has made her America’s most recognizable advocate for human rights, conservation, and humanitarian aid--so much so that Forbes Magazine ranked her as the world’s “Most Powerful Celebrity.” Not bad for a woman who started out in Cyborg 2.
Taylor Swift is the defining pop star of today. Who else has the clout to stand up to Apple and win? That’s just what Taylor Swift did in 2015 when Apple announced it wouldn’t pay royalties to artists on its newly released streaming service for a 3-month trail. When Swift threatened to pull her music from Apple, the Silicon Valley giant turned over on its original idea and offered payment from the beginning. By the age of 25, her net worth is estimated between $200 and $300 million after she launched her country music career at the age of 14. We’ve become used to seeing her dominate award shows, top the charts, sell out concerts, and dabble in some inevitably doomed romance that will churn out another hit song, making her even more money. It’s a cycle we don’t fully understand, yet she’s everywhere, and she’s been everywhere for the better part of a decade.