New York: Congress party presidentSonia Gandhi and ICICI Bank Ltd chief executive Chanda Kochhar ranked among the Top 20 in a list of the world’s 100 most powerful women compiled by Forbes that was released on Wednesday. The list was topped for the fourth consecutive year by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Gandhi ranked 13, moving up from 21 last year, and Kochhar, who heads India’s second biggest lender by assets, was 20th in the list. Indra Nooyi, the India-born chief executive of beverage maker PepsiCo Inc., came in at number three after Sheila Bair, chair of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures bank deposits and has gained prominence as a recession grinds on in the world’s biggest economy.
Bangalore-based biotech firm Biocon Ltd’s founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw also featured in the list at number 91. Bahujan Samaj Party leader and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, who was at 59 in last year’s list, did not figure in the latest rankings.
Unsurpassed: Merkel, 55, is widely expected to retain power in a federal election on 27 September. Reuters / Thomas Peter
On Gandhi, Forbes said she was “still the country’s dominant force since she reluctantly entered politics in the 1990s”. Victory for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the April-May general election further strengthened her position as the leader of “India’s most powerful political party”, it said.
US first lady Michelle Obama debuted at No. 40, coming in ahead of talk show host Oprah Winfrey at 41 and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at 42. The list is based on factors such as economic impact, media reach and career accomplishments.
The chief executives of DuPont Co. and Sunoco Inc., Ellen J. Kullman and Lynn Elsenhans, respectively, are new to the Top 10, replacing the Xerox Corp. chair Anne M. Mulcahy, who dropped to No. 15, and former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who fell off the list after leaving office in January.
Rice’s successor Hillary Clinton came in at No. 36, dropping from No. 28 last year when her presidential bid made her the woman with the highest public profile on the list.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, retained her No. 35 spot.
“Women in power are rising to leadership positions in business, government and philanthropy by making daring and unconventional moves,”Forbes said. “Gone are the days of women feeling they must stick with one employer and patiently wait for promotions.”
“Highly ambitious women... are moving across companies and industries, making big leaps with each change, and repositioning themselves for opportunities that allow them to gain a breadth of experience,” the magazine said.
Merkel, 55, became the first female chancellor of Germany in 2005 and is widely expected to retain power in a federal election on 27 September.
Obama, 45, has won fans for her down-to-earth personality, her support of causes including healthy eating and the arts, and her fashion sense that has seen her grace several best-dressed lists.
Other US newcomers include Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor at No. 54, secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius at No. 56, secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano at No. 51 and Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Schapiro at No. 55.
Also new to the list are Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wajed at No. 78, UN high commissioner for human rights Navanethem Pillay at No. 63 and Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir at No. 74.
Reuters contributed to this story.