Women of Influence from Business and Politics
The women below have been ranked multiple times in various lists, including Forbes, and Fortunes lists of Most Powerful Women, Forbes list of America’s Self-Made Women and Time’s lists of Most Powerful Women and Most Influential list and other lists.
Angela Merkel (born 1954) is a German politician who was voted as Chancellor of Germany in 2005. In her role as Chancellor of Germany, she has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful woman in the world.
Christine Lagarde (born 1956) is a French lawyer appointed as Chairman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2011 and President of the European Central Bank, appointed in 2019.
Ginni Rometty (born 1957) is a business executive and chair, president, and CEO of IBM. Rometty is the first woman to head the company. Since becoming CEO, Rometty has focused IBM on analytics, cloud computing, and cognitive computing systems.
Oprah Winfrey (born 1954) is an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and ran in national syndication for 25 years. She has also been sometimes ranked as the most influential woman in the world.
Melinda Gates (born 1964) is an American philanthropist who in 2000, co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband Bill Gates, the world’s largest private charitable organization. Melinda Gates has consistently been ranked as one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes.
Arianna Huffington (born 1950) is a Greek-American author, columnist, and businesswoman. She is the founder of The Huffington Post, the founder, and CEO of Thrive Global, and the author of fifteen books. She serves on numerous boards.
Mary Barra (born 1961) was appointed Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors Company in 2014. She was the first female CEO of a major global automaker. Barra was listed on Forbes and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list. Barra has also featured on the cover of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Marillyn Hewson (born 1953) was appointed the chairwoman, president, and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin. She has consistently been named among the most powerful women in the world by business media.
Rachel Botsman is a world-renowned expert on the new era of trust and technology. Boatsman has lectured and written on how trust is built, lost and restored in the digital age. Rachel Botsman’s Big Idea of Collaborative Consumption, is defined in her 2010 book, “What’s Mine is Yours.” where she explains what the digital age means for life, work, and how we do business. Botsman’s book was named by TIME as one of the “Ten Ideas That Will Change the World.”
Rita Gunther McGrath
Rita Gunther McGrath is a strategic management scholar and professor of management at Columbia Business School. She is highly regarded in her work on strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Rita McGrath is best known for her work on the “Discovery-Driven Planning” theory. The planning technique and theory was first introduced in a Harvard Business Review article by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian C. MacMillan in 1995.
Sheryl Sandberg (born 1969) is a technology executive, author, and billionaire. She is the Chief Operating Officer and board member of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org. She was named in the Time 100, an annual list of the most influential people and is reported to be worth over US$1 billion.
Susan Wojcicki (born1968) is an American technology executive. She was appointed the CEO of YouTube in 2014. Wojcicki was involved in the founding of Google and became Google’s first marketing manager in 1999. Wojcicki has ranked on Forbes and Fortunes lists of Most Powerful Women and on Forbes list of America’s Self-Made Women.
Michelle Obama (born 1964) is an American lawyer and writer, who was the first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African-American first lady.
Indra Nooyi (born 1955) is an Indian American business executive who served as the CEO of PepsiCo for 12 Years. She has consistently ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women. Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 and was named CEO in 2006, becoming the fifth CEO in PepsiCo’s 44-year history.
“Strong women empower other women.”
– Melinda Gates
Career Advice from Women of Influence
“Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. ‘Here, open it, it’s perfect. You’ll love it.’ Opportunities — the good ones — are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.” – Susan Wojcicki
“I learned to always take on things I’d never done before.” – Ginni Rometty
“It’s a marathon not a sprint.” – Mary Barra
“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.” – Melinda Gates
“Do what you love and success will follow. Passion is the fuel behind a successful career.” – Meg Whitman
“I chose to pursue a career in physics because there the truth isn’t so easily bent.” – Angela Merkel
“Find something that you love to do, and find a place that you really like to do it in.” – Ursula Burns
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” – Oprah Winfrey
“We have a concrete opportunity to build a more transparent, inclusive and responsible society.” – Rachel Botsman
“I learned that you can constantly improve, and that you should not be shy about your views, and about the direction that you believe is right.” – Christine Lagarde
“Not taking failures personally allows us to recover — and even to thrive.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“Generating ideas is not a problem. Incubation is. Acceleration is.” – Rita McGrath
“I never cut class. I loved getting A’s, I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world.” – Michelle Obama
“Treat life as a learning journey.” – Melinda Gates
“Whatever you decide to do, do it with passion and all of the energy that you have.” – Mary Barra
“When I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.” – Michelle Obama
“The most important thing for any of us to be in our jobs is curious.” – Ginni Rometty
“Though we do need more women to graduate with technical degrees, I always like to remind women that you don’t need to have science or technology degrees to build a career in tech.” – Susan Wojcicki
“I wouldn’t ask anybody to do something I would do myself.” – Indra Nooyi
“I learn in a different way. I learn experientially.” – Melinda Gates
“The willingness to learn new skills is very high.” – Angela Merkel
“The things you own end up owning you.” – Rachel Botsman
“Today, most young women are exposed to technology at a very young age, with mobile phones, tablets, the Web or social media. They are much more proficient with technology than prior generations since they use it for all their school work, communication and entertainment.” – Susan Wojcicki
“All stress comes from resisting what is.” – Oprah Winfrey
“Self-doubt becomes a form of self-defense.”… We put ourselves down before others can.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“I always wanted to know what I’d face next, even though that was maybe a bit detrimental to spontaneity. Structuring my life and avoiding chaos was more important.” – Angela Merkel
“The world is full of opportunities – every day there’s something new that you can do.” – Ursula Burns
“Women, as the minority, have to prove their worth all the time. That’s the reason we tend to over-prepare, over-study, over-anticipate. I think it’s the case with many women leaders. We tend to over do it.” – Christine Lagarde
“Exploiting a sustainable competitive advantage is great… If you can find it.” – Rita McGrath
“Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” – Michelle Obama
“At the end of the day, both men and women who become CEOs have showed tenacity and hard work to succeed in their careers. It takes not just skills but also extreme dedication and commitment. And regardless of gender, CEOs are measured by the same criteria – the growth and success of the business.” – Susan Wojcicki
“The world is full of opportunities – every day there’s something new that you can do.”
– Ursula Burns
Business Advice from Women of Influence
“Whoever decides to dedicate their life to politics knows that earning money isn’t the top priority.” – Angela Merkel
“If you don’t transform, you’re stuck.” – Ursula Burns
“We need to find the opportunity not to do everything, but to do the important things.” – Mary Barra
“The challenge of a leader is looking around the corner..and making the change before it’s too late to make the change.”- Indra Nooyi
“Clients say, ‘What’s your strategy,’ and I say, ‘Ask me what I believe first.’ That’s a far more enduring answer.” – Ginni Rometty
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“On YouTube, women are not just users; they’re creators. They’re learning about business and technology, and having a voice.” – Susan Wojcicki
“In the midst of difficulty lies Opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey
“Candidates need to demonstrate strategic thinking and strong problem-solving skills. And, just as importantly, they need to know when and how to ask for help.” – Marillyn Hewson
“Think about it. Women control 70 percent of global consumer spending . . . when women do better, economies do better.” – Christine Lagarde
“Things are always changing. Part of being successful here is being comfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen.” – Susan Wojcicki
“The world is full of ideas today if we don’t do it somebody else is going to do it.” – Indra Nooyi
“It’s good to criticize the core ideas and companies, as this will only challenge it to improve, but let’s make sure we accurately define what we’re criticizing first.” – Rachel Botsman
“The question is not whether we are able to change but whether we are changing fast enough.” – Angela Merkel
“I do business with my heart as much as I do with my head, both personally and professionally.” – Ursula Burns
“Climate change knows no borders. It will not stop before the Pacific Islands and the whole of the international community here has to shoulder a responsibility to bring about sustainable development.” – Angela Merkel
“Right now, offline and online are coming together because of smartphones.” – Susan Wojcicki
“When women do better, economies do better.” – Christine Lagarde
“So here’s an interesting irony. Despite the enormous sums in play, little goes to female and minority founders.” – Rita McGrath
“Men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“You build your own strategy. You don’t define it by what another competitor is doing.” – Ginni Rometty
“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of a mistake.” – Meg Whitman
“We are a consumer company and our success is directly linked to our users trusting us.” – Susan Wojcicki
“And let’s be clear: It’s not enough just to limit ads for foods that aren’t healthy. It’s also going to be critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy.” – Michelle Obama
“Trust used to flow upwards to experts and authority – now it’s flowing sideways to strangers, peers, and neighbors.” – Rachel Botsman
“And no matter what business you go into, you only win when your customer says you win.” – Mary Barra
“Leadership belongs to those who take it.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” – Oprah Winfrey
“But we also believe in taking risks, because that’s how you move things along.” – Melinda Gates
“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of a mistake.”
– Meg Whitman
Leadership Advice from Women of Influence
“Everybody does a better job when they’re able to balance.” – Mary Barra
“You know, when I sit in meetings and things are very tense and people take things extremely seriously and they invest a lot of their ego, I sometimes think to myself, ‘Come on, you know, there’s life and there’s death and there is love.’ And all of that ego business is nonsense compared to that.” – Christine Lagarde
“I have tried in my role of being one of the first women at Google, let alone the first woman to have a baby, to really try to set the tone that this is a great place to work for diversity reasons.” – Susan Wojcicki
“Leaders must exemplify integrity and earn the trust of their teams through their everyday actions. When you do this, you set high standards for everyone at your company. And when you do so with positive energy and enthusiasm for shared goals and purpose, you can deeply connect with your team and customers.” – Marillyn Hewson
“Engineering is a jeans and hoodie culture, and sales is more formal.” – Susan Wojcicki
“Your value will be not what you know; it will be what you share.” – Ginni Rometty
“I realized I was more convincing to myself and to the people who were listening when I actually said what I thought, versus what I thought people wanted to hear me say.” – Ursula Burns
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey
“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” – Melinda Gates
“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” – Michelle Obama
“Hatred, racism, and extremism have no place in this country.”- Angela Merkel
“The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“Strong women empower other women.” – Melinda Gates
“Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do. Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they’re doing it. That’s purpose. And that’s the key to achieving something truly transformational.” – Marillyn Hewson
“Find people who will make you better.” – Michelle Obama
“Before a negotiation can proceed and be completed, what is outside the scope of negotiation needs to be agreed.” – Christine Lagarde
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.” – Michelle Obama
“For me, it is always important that I go through all the possible options for a decision.” – Angela Merkel
“The best way to get the best out of people is to not force them to be something other than they naturally are. Now, what do they have to be? They have to be respectful.” – Ursula Burns
“It’s a question of not so much pushing the boys out of the picture, but making the whole frame bigger so that both men and women access the labor market, contribute to the economy, generate growth, have jobs, and so on.” – Christine Lagarde
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made”. – Michelle Obama
“Let us answer the terrorists by living our values with courage”. – Angela Merkel
Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled. – Christine Lagarde
“Choose people who lift you up.” – Michelle Obama
“I realized that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“Pattern recognition is gained through experience” – Meg Whitman
“At the end of the day, when the decision has to be made, if we don’t have complete unanimity, I have no qualms about making it.” – Mary Barra
“Leaders have to see past problems to solutions.” – Marillyn Hewson
“You teach people how to treat you.” – Oprah Winfrey
“What technology is doing is allowing us to take the value and make it liquid – in all sorts of interesting ways. The good thing about idling capacity is that it’s absolutely everywhere.” – Rachel Botsman
“When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises.” – Angela Merkel
You have to stick up for what you believe in. And that, to me, is the biggest thing you can do about driving inclusion.” – Ginni Rometty
“The problem is when that fun stuff becomes the habit. And I think that’s what’s happened in our culture. Fast food has become the everyday meal.” – Michelle Obama
“Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do. Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they’re doing it. That’s purpose. And that’s the key to achieving something truly transformational.”
– Marillyn Hewson
Interesting Facts and Insights about doing Business as a Woman
Women bring a diversity dividend as non-executive directors of companies. Gender balanced boards are more successful than mono-cultural boards on every measure.
Increasing numbers of women are studying science, engineering, and technology (SET) degrees.
Women were nearly five times more likely to mention family reasons for becoming self-employed than men.
Men are more likely than women to say that one of the reasons they became self-employed was to ‘make more money’.
On average more self-employed women than men work from home.
Women of mixed ethnicity are more entrepreneurial than mono-ethnic women.
Gender differences in laws affect many economies and women in all regions. Globally, about 3 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men.
In about 100 economies, laws prevent women from working in specific jobs.
In about 50 economies, there are no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Women constitute approximately half of the over 200 million migrants who live and work outside their countries of birth.
Around 30% of all US businesses are majority female-owned.
Women in the USA are twice as likely to be entrepreneurial as women in the UK.
About 5% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies are held by Women.
30% of US Businesses are owned by Women.
Self-employed women are the majority of the newly self-employed.
The increase in the number of women self-employed is increasing faster than for men.
Women account for less than a third of those in self-employment.
An Australian survey found over 50% of women say access to mentors would help their business success.
Australia received a high rating in a “Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard”, which indicates conditions are right for women to make an entrepreneurial impact in start-up businesses.
The number of self-employed women in Canada grew twice as fast as men.
Canada ranks highly among the countries assessed for their support of women’s entrepreneurship.
“Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. ‘Here, open it, it’s perfect. You’ll love it.’ Opportunities — the good ones — are messy, confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.”