Every year, Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women list is out to give credit to powerful women around the world. Featuring the leading women in politics, business and entertainment, Forbes takes into account “factors such as economic impact, media reach and career accomplishments.” Moreover, popularity and community impact are also considered.
Yet, 2010 Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women list is hard to understand. Why Michelle Obama claims top position? How come Lady Gaga and Beyonce make it to the top ten, when lifestyle accounts only for 20% of the list? Why only 10 out of 50 women are non-US based?
US First Lady Michelle Obama claiming the top spot is possibly the magazine’s decision to opt out on creative impact and cultural diversity. Michelle Obama is the first black First Lady. She is married to the most powerful man in the US – the US President Barack Obama; she has put her own lawyer career on hold; and she has done an excellent job in bringing attention to the problem of childhood obesity. Question: are these reasons to be placed higher than Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (ranked #5) who deals with Iran and Afghanistan wars and North Korea, tries to find a resolution to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has to improve America’s image abroad? Michelle Obama has no political action, whereas Hilary Clinton has. So how is power measured after all?
Lady Gaga and Beyonce are two excellent artists, no doubt about that. They are both popular and wealthy and know how to move the masses in every appearance or stage performance. Particularly Lady Gaga has recently found a new interest in politics or better in going political with her support in military’s Don’t ask, Don’t tell (DADT) policy. Question: does this make her one of the most powerful women on the planet? Does this make her worth ranking in #7, higher than Secretary of State Janet Napolitano (ranked # 13), who is responsible for the national security? Napolitano had to deal with close call bombing on Times Square, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 on December 25, 2009, among others. Again, how is power measured after all?
Another key characteristic of 2010 Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women list is that it tends to give credit to US based women. Out of 50 winners, only 10 are non-US based and only 2 are eastern-style, coming from Singapore and South Africa. By elaborating on the entire 100 names, one cannot help to see that only 11 women out of 100 are coming from eastern countries including China, India, Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Question: promoting women’s rights in dangerous countries where women have no rights at all to basic needs including education, hygiene, or housing is not powerful in its own right? Why Forbes gives credit only to CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen and business women and at the same time ignores (in a way) the power of promoting human rights in places that the word “right” for a woman is synonym to “ridiculous?” Again, how is power measured after all?
So, Forbes is celebrating power, achievement and cultural impact. In effect, 2010 Forbes 50 Most Powerful Women list gives credit to women who are already powerful enough to be ranked high not only because they have community impact, but because Forbes said so.