This year, Michelle Obama unsurprisingly ranked Number 1 on Forbes magazine’s 100 most powerful women in the world. “Not only is she a First Lady, she’s the first African-American First Lady and that accords her a certain amount of power,” said Heidi Brown, a ForbesWoman staffer who helped compile the list. Forbes says Mrs. Obama has been a “true change-maker” since coming to the White House. After coming up from 40th place on the Forbes’ 2009 list, this year Mrs. Obama displaced 4 times in a row winner, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In assembling the 2009 list, Forbes looked for women who run countries, big companies or influential nonprofits. Rankings are a combination of two scores: visibility–by press mentions–and the size of the organization or country these women lead. But this year, the criteria was more diverse and the magazine decided to “look up and out into the broader culture” and consider women in varied fields – politics, lifestyle, business and media.
The list includes business CEOs and executives, heads of state, fashion designers, a few celebrities, models, and even some bloggers. The list was attributed more to creativity and influence. Michelle Obama’s position as No. 1 on the list was attributed to her high approval ratings, her status as a role model and her campaign against childhood obesity.
Oprah Winfrey was ranked third on the list. Beyonce Knowles landed at No. 9; professional tennis stars Serena Williams and Venus Williams landed in spots 55 and 60, respectively.
Research reports from nonprofit Catalyst indicate that individual female leaders continue to climb higher, but that women as a group are making only modest gains. Since 2000, women comprise about 46% of the American labor force, but they hold only 15% of top corporate jobs. Less than 3% of the country’s biggest companies have female chief executives. These women demonstrate that it is possible for African-American females to achieve power and influence in a variety of fields.
Candi Sparks is the author of the “Can I Have Some Money?” books series.