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Saturday, October 9, 2010

70 Most Powerful American Women + we should probably include these really high-profile ladies from other countries, dudes

I just saw Forbes' new "World's 100 Most Powerful Women" list. Feministe remarks approvingly that the top ten "includes four women of color and at least one lesbian." Fair enough, this is a good thing.

However, I'm a little bit concerned about Forbes' metrics for rating the power held by these women (on a world-wide scale). I've been trying to find their criteria on the website but no luck yet.

What concerns me is out of these 100 supposedly most powerful women in the world, 70 are from the US. Of the top 25, only three are not American. Of the top 50, that number is 10. And this is why I'm so confused/concerned about the metrics…

For example, while it's great that Beyonce has such a high ranking on the list (#9), is she really that much more influential on a world-wide scale than the Queen (#41)? And I find it hard to believe that Stephenie Meyer (#49) has more power globally than the Prime Minister of Australia (#58), the President of Finland (#62), the President of Ireland (#64), the President of Argentina (#68), the Queen of Jordan (#76), the President of Iceland (#80), the President of Costa Rica (#83), or the President of Liberia (#86). (I'm also concerned that Stephenie Meyer made it on the list and J.K. Rowling didn't, even though Rowling seems the more politically active of the two. Also her books are better.)

I feel like income must be a prime consideration, otherwise there would not be nearly so many people from the fashion industry (models as well as designers). In a lot of cases--and here I'm not only referring to the fashion industry, but also many of the media personalities on the list--these women have influence as tastemakers and opinion makers, and largely, I would argue, only in the US. Rachel Maddow, for example. Now that I know of her existence I watch segments of her show sometimes, and I find her clever and funny. But I hadn't heard of her until earlier this year, and I'm pretty sure her show doesn't even air in Canada (I've only ever seen it online). And what about Danica Patrick, the race car diver? Sure, she's breaking down barriers into an old boy's club and she's probably inspiring lots of little girls who are into racing, but I don't know if I would consider her powerful on a global scale. I've never even heard of most of the news anchors that appear on the list.

Big corporations and big governments objectively harness a lot of power, and the people who run them control that power. The list at least mentions most of the important female heads of state, ministers, and business executives, and although there is a definite bias towards the US there, that can be partially explained by the political power of the US. As for the others--the singers, the talk show hosts, the athletes, the models, the authors--they are legitimately powerful culturally… in the US. Some of them do have a more global reach, but seriously… who is Suze Orman? Who is this Rachel Ray person? Does it count if I only know about someone because she's Arnold Schwarzenager's wife? Does it count if I've read a couple articles from the Huffington Post? Why are there no media/culture/lifestyle personalities from other countries (except the First Lady of France)?

You know who I think is a powerful woman? Michaelle Jean, who until a few days ago was Governor General of Canada. She had the power to stop Parliament in its tracks (which she did, twice). She's shmoozed will all of the heads of state and ambassadors. She was a major force behind bringing aid to her birth land of Haiti. Once she almost caused trade disruptions between Canada and the European Union by eating a seal heart, thus showing her support for the traditional seal hunt practiced by the Inuit, and infuriating anti-seal hunt Europe. Before she was GG, Jean had a CBC show.

Why aren't there more women like her on the list?

1 comment:

  1. Great post :) The Forbes list is an utter joke. They probably went and interviewed pre-school kids to determine the list. They can't even get the celebrities right. Rachael Ray is awesome but she doesn't have much power or influence at all, I couldn't see her making the 100 list even on a strictly US list. We should make our own Most Powerful list; Forbes has certainly set the bar comfortably low.