10 OF THE MOST POWERFUL WOMEN IN THE WORLD

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues her reign as the most powerful woman on the planet for 10 years running. Why? She clinched a third four-year term of Europe’s most vibrant economy in December 2014, making her the longest-serving elected EU head of state. She fought off a national recession during the global economic crisis with stimulus packages and government subsidies for companies that cut hours for workers, and she is in the thick of trying to help Greece revive its economy. She has used her power against ISIS, breaking the post-Nazi-era taboo of direct involvement in military actions by sending arms to Kurdish fighters. In the Russia-Ukraine crisis, she has been engaging in shuttle diplomacy trying to broker a peace deal with Vladimir Putin. There’s only one woman who has a chance of endangering her tenure as No. 1 in 2016 — the world’s No. 2 most powerful woman.

 

 

Senator Hillary Clinton

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The presumptive Democratic front-urunner in the 2016 presidential race started her campaign miles ahead of challengers. She faltered but has regained steam over time, putting up a strong front during an 11-hour marathon hearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She is the first and only first lady to become a U.S. senator, not to mention presidential candidate. Her bestselling 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices,” which chronicles her time as secretary of state, reportedly earned her a high-seven-figure advance. Her popularity remains high despite the “emailgate” revelations that she used her own private email address and server while at the State Department instead of the government system, potentially making her correspondence vulnerable to hacking and foreign surveillance. She has said she regretted the decision and complied with government rule.

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Melinda Gates has cemented her dominance in philanthropy and global development to the tune of $3.9 billion in giving in 2014 and more than $33 billion in grant payments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000. Her work has inspired other big donors and has changed way funders think about effective philanthropy: highly targeted campaigns coupled with data-driven monitoring and global collaboration. As the woman with her name on the door, Gates decides the direction of the organization and reviews the results. Much of her attention is now focused on championing investments in women and girls around the world.

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Janet Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first female head of the Federal Reserve. The Yale and Brown educated economist has barely had a moments rest since then: She took over shortly after the central bank began unwinding its recession era bond buying program and then deftly ushered markets through six cuts that brought monthly purchases to $0 from a peak of $85 billion. Now the Fed could loosen the economic reigns further by beginning to hike interest rates as soon as December 2015 — a feat that was anticipated earlier in the year but hasn’t attempted since 2004. With so much at stake a single word from Yellen can send asset prices swinging. Meanwhile she has been fighting a call to increase congressional supervision of the Fed while pushing to improve the Fed’s oversight of big banks.

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Mary Barra survived a harrowing first year as the first woman ever to head a Big 8 automaker last year. She faced revelations about faulty ignition switches blamed for at least 74 deaths and 126 injuries, a 30-million car recall and pressure from investors to return more cash to shareholders. In October the 35-year GM veteran finally got to lay out her strategy for the future, which includes turning Cadillac into a global luxury brand, continuing to grow in China and becoming a technology leader. Under Barra GM is also proving to be more disciplined financially, making tough decisions like pulling out of Russia, Australia and Indonesia or killing the Chevrolet brand in Europe if there’s not enough profit to justify continued investment.

 

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Christine Lagarde is entering the last year of her first term heading the International Monetary Fund, the organization which serves as economic advisor and backstop for 188 countries. When she took over in 2011 the world economy was still recovering from the financial crisis. Today Lagarde is projecting 3.5% annual global growth — only a hint above last year’s rate and down from 4% in 2011. Lagarde calls this the “new mediocre” and is vocal about her concern that slow growth has become the “new reality.” How is the IMF helping? By viewing emerging markets as unique locals rather than a single entity and warning central bankers — the U.S. Federal Reserve especially — to be wary of the potential negative effects of differing monetary policy across the globe. Under Lagarde the IMF has supported efforts to increase female labor force participation as way to reduce poverty and inequality.

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Calls for President Dilma Rousseff’s resignation were chanted through the streets of Brazil at the start of this year, just months into her second term. Rousseff, who ran on campaign promises to harness oil and boost the economy, is now battling a bribery scandal that involves the national oil company Petrobras. As Brazil’s first female president, she was elected in 2010 and was on track to end poverty in the world’s seventh-largest economy. But the hopes of her supporters have fallen flat in recent months as her approval ratings have dropped to 13%. Additionally, the economy of the country with a GDP of $2.19 trillion could shrink for the second consecutive year. Unfortunately the Brazilian congress successfully sought her impeachment in April 2016.

 

Sheryl Sandberg

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Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and author of bestseller “Lean In.” In December 2015, she donated $31 million in Facebook stock to the Sheryl Sandberg Philanthropy Fund. The majority of the donation will go to Lean In, the nonprofit Sandberg founded to back women in the workplace, and women’s empowerment groups. She also plans to support education and anti-poverty groups. A former Google executive, Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008 and became the first woman on its board four years later. Sandberg helped the social network scale globally, go public and expand digital revenue. Earlier, the Harvard MBA was a World Bank economist and chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Her husband, Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey’s CEO, who long supkported her fast-track career, died unexpectedly at age 47 in May 2015.

 

Susan Wojcicki

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Memes may come and go, but Susan Wojcicki’s new job is to make certain that YouTube profits from every one of them. Google employee No. 16 — the company initially rented her Menlo Park garage as its headquarters — now heads up the Internet’s central hub for all things video. In February 2014, Wojcicki moved from her post as consigliere for Google’s ads and commerce (some 90% of revenue) to become CEO of Google-owned YouTube, the world’s largest video platform. It was a long time coming: In 2006, Wojcicki championed the $1.65 billion acquisition of the video site. YouTube, with more than 1 billion unique visitors a month, is now valued at some $20 billion, with 2014 revenues hitting $4 billion, up 33% from the prior year. Calling YouTube complementary to television, Wojcicki is working to support YouTube’s celebrities and help media companies make the most of the video platform.

 

 

Michelle Obama

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While her husband may sit in the Oval Office, First Lady Michelle Obama has her own power seat in the White House. At the start of the year, she traveled to Southeast Asia to push an initiative that aims to get more girls educated and improve the well-being and financial stability of young women. In the summer of 2014, she spoke of the administration’s effort to end homelessness among military veterans in the U.S. — cities like Phoenix and Salt Lake City have been successful — and pushed back against measures that would allow some schools to opt out of the federal dietary standards for school lunches. Obama gained attention after opting not to cover her head during a visit with the president to Saudi Arabia.

 

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