Who Are The Most Powerful Women Of 2016?

Ever wanted to be powerful? Not just "got retweeted by a famous person" or "managed your own team at work like a benevolent dictator" powerful — we're talking world-changing, headline-making, policy-bending power. (Yes, I am tapping my fingers like Mr. Burns while saying that aloud.) If you're interested in the recipe or looking for mentors to watch, the Forbes' The World's 100 Most Powerful Women rankings for 2016 have just been released, and they're very interesting indeed — from the amount of women of color to the new emphasis on female political power on the list.

One of the most notable things about Forbes' list is its reach. It looks beyond purely elected or economic power; the three female Supreme Court judges, for instance, are all tied at number 23 on the list. Philanthropists, mining magnates and media company CEOs rub shoulders, and some are making their list debuts: politician and scientist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim makes Mauritius' first ever appearance on the strength of her election as the nation's president. The world of female power is changing, as we gradually gain more political clout, business dominance, and economic freedom. But there's still a long way to go. Power lists also serve to highlight the powerless, and even the most powerful women are still outranked; in Forbes' Most Powerful People list in 2015, there were only three women in the entire top 30.

So here's what to know if you want to run the world someday. Hint: you'll need a lot of money, probably require at least one country at your command, and being American or Chinese could be an advantage.

1. Women Of Color Saw A Strong Showing

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While the 2016 top 10 does not feature any women of color, the picture overall on the Forbes list was a pretty good one, or at least far better than it could have been. They make up about 30 percent of the top 30: the highest rankings are South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Michelle Obama, and PepsiCo. CEO Indra Nooyi (pictured). Sonia Sotomayor (as part of an entry for the U.S. Supreme Court justices) and Arundhati Bhattacharya, head of India's State Bank, help round out the numbers.

WOC from hugely diverse countries have made a huge showing in the rankings: four from India, two from South Korea, and two from Saudi Arabia, just to scrape the surface — a full quarter of the list came from the Asia-Pacific region. And even the WOC who are the sole representatives of their countries aren't to be messed with: Folorunsho Alakija, who comes in at number 80, is a Nigerian oil magnate with a personal worth of over $1 billion.

2. It Reflects The New Wave Of Female Political Leaders

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Forbes themselves tracked one of the biggest influences on their new rankings: the sharp rise in female political leadership in countries worldwide. According to their research with the Pew Research Center, the number of female world leaders has doubled since 2005, and five female leaders broke ground with their election in 2015 alone.

The highest-ranked female politician, who comes in at number 2, is Hillary Clinton — and bear in mind that she hasn't even officially become the Democratic nominee for the presidential race yet. (If Clinton gets the presidency, she may give Angela Merkel a run for her money.) But a full 12 out of the list are currently leading countries, including Tsai Ing-wen (pictured), elected president of Taiwan in April 2016, Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, and Michele Bachelet, president of Chile (who comes in at a respectable ranking of 18). Interestingly, Michelle Obama, who holds no official elected office, ranks at number 13, reflecting her huge visibility and the strength of her role as First Lady.

3. It's Not Just Decided By Wealth


Forbes' top 100 isn't just about the wealthiest women in the world; there's another list entirely for that one, and many of the women on that will likely not be household names (unless your household spends a lot of time looking at share trading). The criteria for "most powerful" is divided into four categories, Forbes says: wealth is one, counted as either personal wealth, company revenues, or the gross national product of the country they rule, but there are other necessary aspects, and they can be a bit more subjective.

Forbes also measured "media presence; spheres of influence; and impact, analyzed both within the context of each woman's field (media, technology, business, philanthropy, politics, and finance) and outside of it." Media presence can be measured a bit more objectively (though there's no news on whether they count Twitter mentions), but when it comes to something as nebulous as "impacts," the intricacies of measurement have to have a wide focus: how many people, businesses and countries see consequences from this person's decisions? And how successful have those decisions been? On that measure, you can see clearly why Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has topped the list for six years running: she's juggling the EU, the refugee crisis, German domestic policy and foreign diplomacy without an apparent implosion.

But the biggest absence from the list is an expected one: Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, the entrepreneurial company attempting to create simple, cheap blood-testing mechanisms to be used at home or in supermarkets rather than in hospitals. Forbes wiped her entire $4.5 billion wealth estimate from her last week, lowering her wealth value to $0 in the wake of Theranos' struggles to get its products off the ground. (Apparently, Forbes no longer believes Theranos will ever produce a product, so it thinks Holmes' company is basically worthless.) On the ladder of power, Holmes has now slipped off, at least for the moment.

4. The U.S. And China Dominate The Rankings

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BBC News noted, when the list emerged this week, that it was a "record showing" for Chinese women across different spheres of influence; nine Chinese women made the list, from First Lady Peng Liyuan to Hong Kong businesswoman Pollyanna Chu, whose net worth is estimated at a whopping $4.3 billion as head of a securities firm. But the hugely dominant nationality of the list is American; they lead not only the overall tally (with 21 women) but the top 10. After Angela Merkel's number one slot, American women fill all but one of slots two to nine; after Clinton, Janet Yellen, head of the Federal Reserve, philanthropist Melinda Gates (pictured), General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Sheryl Sandberg, Youtube and Google CEO Susan Wojcicki, and head of Hewlett-Packard Meg Whitman round out the top spots.

So we've got a clear recipe for female power. If you want to climb to the top of the world rankings, it's best to be American, probably white (all the Americans in the top 10 are), and a corporate leader. Forbes has your future all plotted out for you.

5. There's Only One Entertainer In The Top 25

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This is the bit that might make people slightly puzzled: when Forbes rates the power of its list, including their media mentions, it doesn't necessary include cultural clout. Which means that the one entertainer in the top 25 isn't the one who caused endless editorials, think-pieces, and mass social media hysteria when she dropped Lemonade on HBO in 2016. Nope; the sole representative of entertainers on the top quarter of the list isn't Beyoncé. It's the immortal Oprah, whom Forbes suggests possesses "magic" and estimates her worth in the billions.

Of course, entertainment is still a presence; but the people who figure in the rankings (though they're all below Oprah, who sits resplendently at number 21) are mostly behind-the-scenes figures, in the business of constructing the media and entertainment industries. Vogue head Anna Wintour figures at number 28, but you might be less familiar with the other names from the entertainment industries: Bonnie Hammer (at number 47, she's the head of NBC and Comcast) and Dana Walden (CEO of Fox, at 53). The two other boldface names are Fox anchor Greta van Susteren, a surprise entrant at number 94, and Ariana Huffington of The Huffington Post.

So if you're craving raw power, apparently, put away the mix tape and go into politics or the corporate world. We'll all be waiting for your world domination.