Earlier this week Forbes announced the 2018 list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. In the 15th year of the annual list, German Chancellor Angela Merkel retains the top spot for the eighth consecutive year, and 13 times in total.
She is followed by U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who for the second year in a row has retained the No. 2 spot on the list in the midst of her leadership through Brexit. May is followed by International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde (No. 3), General Motors CEO Mary Barra (No. 4), and Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson (No. 5).
“Forbes’ Most Powerful Women 2018 list reflects what is always known about power, how ephemeral it is and how volatile it can be,” says Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President, Forbes Media. “The world’s most powerful women are leading amidst a tumultuous time where geopolitical tensions are on the rise, key economies are facing instability, and where trust in institutions is at an all-time low.”
The 100 women on the list are women who are building billion-dollar brands, calling the shots in the financial markets, crisscrossing the globe to broker international agreements, and provide aid to those in need.
Their accomplishments are formidable on their own, and even more so given how difficult it can be to establish inroads into industries and job titles traditionally dominated by men, especially in tech, venture capital, and Hollywood.
They are builders, disruptors, and innovators in every sector from business to creative worlds, taking a modern, forward-looking view on power and using their positions to better the world. Members of the 2018 Most Powerful Women list represent women in six categories: business (27 honorees), technology (18), finance (12), media & entertainment (16), politics & policy (22), and philanthropy (5). In total, the Power Women control or influence nearly $2 trillion in revenues and oversee 5 million employees.
The 2018 list spans more than six generations of influential women, with Taylor Swift the youngest honoree at 28 and Queen Elizabeth II the oldest at 92. The list also includes siblings for the first time – Anne and Susan Wojcicki of 23andMe and YouTube respectively. North America represents 50 women on the list, Asia Pacific 22, Europe (inclusive of Russia and Turkey) 17, the United Kingdom 7, the Middle East 3, one in Africa.
Nineteen women have made their debut on Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful Women list this year.
Notable newcomers include Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia, Serena Williams, tennis superstar and clothing designer, Shonda Rhimes, television producer and showrunner of programs including Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Maggie Wei Wu, CFO of Alibaba Group, and Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of CBS & Viacom.
Notably, Hillary Clinton, who descended 63 spots in the ranks in 2017 at No. 65, did not appear on the list in 2018 for the first time since its inception in 2004.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also dropped out of the top 10 in 2018 rankings for the first time since her list debut in 2010, falling to spot No. 11. First Daughter and Advisor to President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, remained in the top 25, but fell four spots from #19 in 2017 to No. 24 on this year’s list.
Merkel has had quite a tumultuous year, in November she stepped down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and announced she wouldn’t seek another term as chancellor in 2021.
Merkel remains the de facto leader of Europe, leading the region’s largest economy after steering Germany through financial crisis and back to growth.
Her leadership is marked by her steely reserve, from standing up to Donald Trump to allowing more than a million Syrian refugees into Germany.
For now, she leads a coalition government unpopular with voters, facing continuing storms from Brexit and growing anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe.
The big question that the public is now asking is who and what will come after Merkel’s time in office comes to an end.
Six powerful African-American women have been included in this year’s list. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, coming in at number 20, has transitioned her hit talk show into a media, entertainment and business empire bringing her estimated net worth to $2.7 billion.
As a board member and brand ambassador for Weight Watchers since 2015, she has seen her shares grow from $43.5 million to more than $400 million.
This year Winfrey signed a multi-year content partnership deal with Apple that includes programs for Apple’s original content lineup.
She received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes this year, inspiring a viral plea for a presidential run.
Other powerful African-American women on the list include Rosalind Brewer, an American businesswoman who is the COO of Starbucks, Donna Langley, a movie executive, and Chairman of Universal Pictures, Beyoncé Knowles – the American singer snagged the No. 3 spot on Forbes’ highest paid female musicians list, raking in $60 million in 2018, her On The Run II stadium tour with husband Jay-Z grossed roughly $5 million per night -- pulling in a total of more than $250 million.
Shonda Rhimes, coming in at number 75, is an American film Producer, Screenwriter and Author. She made it on the list following her highly successful hit tv series such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. The self-proclaimed highest-paid showrunner in Hollywood, Shonda Rhimes signed a four-year pact with Netflix in 2017 for at least $300 million. She made history as one of the first showrunners to ink an exclusive deal with the streaming service.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams is known not only for her prowess on the courts but for her business acumen as well.
She launched her own clothing line, Serena, in May of this year and bought a stake in the Miami Dolphins alongside her sister in 2009.
After a difficult birth to her daughter, Olympia, she announced she wouldn’t be defending her Australian Open title. Nonetheless, she still ranks as the highest paid female athlete for the third straight year with earnings of $18.1 million thanks to her endorsement portfolio.
Even though the list of world’s most powerful women is notably dominated by women from North America and Europe, Africa’s sole representative, Sahle-Work Zewde, represents a growing influence of women in different spheres in Africa.
In October 2018, Sahle-Work Zewde became Ethiopia’s first woman president and the only serving female head of state in Africa.
A seasoned diplomat and veteran of the United Nations, Zewde was appointed with a unanimous vote by parliament.
In her first address to parliament, Zewde promised to be a voice for women and stressed the importance of unity.
The appointment joins a series of unprecedented shifts as part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reforms focused on easing government control.
Traditionally a ceremonial role, Zewde’s appointment is a tremendously symbolic move for the conservative country, opening the door for gender parity.