From The Top: Expanding Lists of Powerful Women Leaders and Why It Matters

These women made it to the Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women again this year: Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.The women we all know by first name—Angela, Hillary, Oprah, Sheryl, Melinda, Michelle, Tory— they are all on the list again this year. No surprises.The annual 100 Most Powerful Women in The World list from Forbes forms a sorority of “female leaders based on four criteria: money (either net worth or company revenues), media presence, spheres of influence, and impact, both within each woman’s professional field and outside of it,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.Fifty of the 100 most powerful women leaders internationally placed on this list (that includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and philanthropist Melinda Gates), are from the United States. The other 50 are women in politics, business and tech from around the world.“Since 2005, the number of women who are world leaders—presidents or heads of state—had more than doubled by last year, according to the Pew Research Center. In the past year alone, Taiwan, Myanmar, Nepal, Croatia, Mauritius, and Lithuania have elected or reelected female leaders to office. And of course, there is U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who as of press time continues to hold the lead in the primaries,” McNamara writes.Perhaps a new name will be added to the list next year as five powerful women leaders are under consideration for the position of United Nations Secretary General.According to GOOD magazine: “Vesna Pusic, former foreign minister of Croatia, was the first woman nominated for the position earlier this year. Then came Natalia Gherman, foreign minister of Moldova. After that was Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, the first female director-general of UNESCO, and Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand. These four have already had their nomination hearings in front of the UN General Assembly; Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra’s will come in June.”The UN General Assembly will vote later this summer on a position of extraordinary power and influence on the world’s stage.But what does power really mean for women?Alix McNamara writes in Forbes: “Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the first woman to become president in Mauritius, says, ‘People say to have power, you hire and you fire. I don’t subscribe to this notion. For me, power is the ability to influence. If you can influence in the long-term by leaving behind a legacy, to me, that’s real power.‘”[bctt tweet=“For me, power is the ability to influence. – Ammenah Gurib-Fakim”]d5392a4becfeddb12318d16f9b3e66eea70449c1_2880x1620Gloria Feldt’s 9 Leadership Power Tools offer a fresh perspective on our relationship with power, shifting how we think about power in order to change the power paradigm.So what’s the catch?While the Forbes list is of formidable women in many different sectors, it is not a true reflection of a culture of gender parity in power positions, according to Story Hinkley writing in CSM.She interviewed Institute for Women’s Policy Research Barbara Gault, who said: “But sometimes when we have prominent women at the heads of companies it can also make us feel like we’ve made more progress than we have with representation at the highest levels of power and leadership,” says Dr. Gault. “It can turn our attention away from the fact that women are still only about 20 percent of our Congress and 25 percent of people in tech…. These women represent rare exceptions.”Hinkley continues, “It tells part of the story, but not the whole story – some women are still excluded,” says Kevin Miller, senior researcher at the American Association of University Women. “There is an exclusion of women of color [in the Top 10] – seven white American women and three white European women. But this represents the kind of power Forbes looks at: money and traditional political power.”But many say that just the sight of so many powerful women leaders in a list is proof that it is possible to reach the top. It also serves as an inspiration for girls and young women who are forming their career goals and building their aspirations.[bctt tweet=“The sight of so many powerful women leaders is proof that it is possible to reach the top”]Industry Leaders Magazine last week offered its list of “Top 20 Women Entrepreneurs of the Decade” with more predictable names like Arianna Huffington, Martha Stewart and Anita Roddick. This list of the decade six years in, “shines a spotlight on women entrepreneurs and includes role models and top female leaders from across diverse races, ethnicity, geographies and domains.”Industry Leaders has an international roster as well, and includes Cher Wang of Taiwan, who “co-founded HTC in 1997 and has maintained her position as a pioneer in the world of electronics.” Other women in STEM are also represented including Judy Faulkner, founder and CEO of Epic Systems, worth $1.7 billion and Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO of SpaceX, overseeing almost $5 billion in contracts.Is there a secret to the success these powerful women leaders have in common?These women entrepreneurs and leaders have perhaps shared a path to success that included some of the 10 tips laid out by Inc42 for women entrepreneurs to succeed. One tip, of course is persistence.“Have a firm belief in your capabilities to make it work. Inevitably, you will encounter bumps in the road. To succeed, you will have to be willing to persist through difficult times. Despite rejection, successful entrepreneurs always find confidence from within. If you don’t have unwavering faith in your idea, no one else will either.”And if power equals money, then women will have more of it internationally by 2020, as they increase a larger portion of wealth globally.The Boston Consulting Group “estimates that women’s wealth will grow another 7 percent a year over the next few years, and that by 2020 women will control $72.1 trillion globally,” writes Megan Leonhard in Time.“There are several factors at play here, the consulting firm says. Women are acquiring more wealth through inheritances — from both parents and spouses — and via divorce payouts, according to BCG. But they’re also making their own money, as they become entrepreneurs and run their own successful businesses, says BCG partner Anna Zakrzewski. In the U.S., female entrepreneurs accounted for 36 percent of all businesses in 2012, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.”