Imagine adding “most powerful woman on the planet” to your CV. In the current climate it probably wouldn’t even get you an interview, but it’s still a great achievement, particularly during a year that’s challenged every single industry. Unless you make masks or hand sanitiser for a living, in which case, well done you.

The list of 100 most influential women in the world was released by Forbes this week and spans many areas, from business, finance, politics and policy, and technology to philanthropy, media and entertainment. The women hail from 30 countries, were born across four generations, and include 10 heads of state, 38 CEOs and five entertainers. But can you guess who made it to number 1 on the list?

The top five (drum roll please) are:

  1. Angela Merkel – The first female Chancellor of Germany
  2. Christine Lagarde – The first woman to head the European Central Bank
  3. Kamala Harris – The first woman in American history elected to the vice presidency
  4. Ursula von der Leyen – President of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union
  5. Melinda Gates – Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

But which British women made it to the list? If you don’t know these eight influential women, it’s time to get acquainted.

While the youngest on the list at number 82 is Taylor Swift at just 30 years old. The oldest? Our very own Queen Lizzie, who at 94 years old is placed higher than TayTay at number 46.

Aside from HRH The Queen, at number 86 there’s Eliza Manningham-Buller, Chair of the Wellcome Trust, one of the biggest medical trusts in the world. The trust was established in 1936 at the behest of pharmaceutical entrepreneur Henry Wellcome and now has a £25.9 billion investment portfolio. Not bad. The trust tackles the globe’s biggest health problems, including finding a vaccine for Ebola and cures for tropical diseases.

Aged 72, Manningham-Buller is not shy of positions of responsibility. Between 2002 and 2007, she was Director-General of the UK Security Service (MI5) and led the service through significant change. And probs knows James Bond personally.

And with that... we'll get back to watching Netflix and generally feeling significantly inferior.

HRH The Queen
Eliza Manningham-Buller

At number 59, we have Nicola Sturgeon who has served as Scotland’s First Minister and head of the Scottish National party since 2014. And she’s the first woman to do so. She’s staunchly defended Scotland’s interests amid Brexit negotiations and wants a second referendum for Scottish independence. And a recent exciting development for the women of Scotland, this year saw them become the first country to make period products free to anyone who needs them.

The next Brit on the list is Donna Langley at number 53. Donna is the Chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and she’s guided the group to unparalleled growth. Under her leadership, the company crossed $4 billion at the worldwide box office in 2018 for the second time in its 105-year history. Cinema blockbusters during her reign include Fast & Furious, Jurassic World, the Bourne series, Pitch Perfect, and the steamy bonkbuster Fifty Shades. Thanks for that one Donna.

Nicola Sturgeon
Donna Langley

Marianne Lake takes number 43. After serving as JPMorgan’s CFO from 2013 to 2019, where she kept track of $2.5 trillion in total assets, Lake was promoted to CEO of JPMorgan Consumer Lending in April 2019. She’s also been public about her decision at 42 to have her three children through a surrogate even though she didn’t have a partner.

At number 26 is Amanda Blanc. She’s been an Aviva board member since January and took over as the insurance company’s CEO in July 2020. Aviva has 33 million customers, £510 billion of group assets under management and 31,000 people – just your average day at work for Amanda. She’s been voted as the UK Insurer CEO of the Year twice before and also spends time volunteering as chair of the Welsh Professional Rugby Board.

Amanda Blanc
Marianne Lake

Judith McKenna comes in at 17. She started as president and CEO of retail giant Walmart International in February 2018 and now leads more than 6,000 retail stores and 700,000 associates across 26 countries. She led Walmart’s sale of British supermarket Asda for $8.8 billion in October 2020 and plans to invest around $1.2 billion in distribution centres in China over the next two decades. That’s a lot of maths.

And the highest ranking Brit is Emma Wamsley at number 12. She became CEO of GlaxoSmithKline in April of 2017, making her the first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company. Since taking helm of the 300-year-old company, she led a global restructuring program aimed at saving more than $500 million a year by 2021. In one of her biggest moves since becoming CEO, Walmsley led the $13 billion dollar purchase of Novartis’s 36% stake in GSK Consumer Health (one of the companies behind the Covid vaccines). Importantly, Walmsley said that GSK does not intend to profit off the Covid vaccine it’s developing.

And with that… we’ll get back to watching Netflix and generally feeling significantly inferior.

Emma Walmsley
Judith McKenna

To see the full list, visit: www.forbes.com


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