The Shifting Narrative of Female Power: Forbes Most Powerful Women in the World, 2023

In the opening months of 2023, a wave of change swept through the corridors of power, reshaping the narrative of global leadership. The exodus of prominent women such as Sanna Marin, Jacinda Ardern, Nicola Sturgeon, Susan Wojcicki, and Martina Merz from key roles in politics and corporate spheres triggered discussions on the persistent gender disparities in leadership. As the saying goes, the higher they climbed, the harder they fell — all replaced by men, spotlighting the ongoing challenges women face in assuming and retaining powerful positions.

The absence of women in these crucial roles prompted reflections on the strides yet to be made. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s sobering words in March, echoing the sentiment that women aren’t guaranteed succession in leadership roles, underscored the persistent gender gap.

Yet, as the seasons turned and summer arrived, a counter-narrative began to unfold. The latter part of the year saw notable women ascending to influential positions, marking a turning point in the narrative of female power. In May, Robyn Grew broke new ground by becoming the first woman to lead the Man Group, a significant player in the hedge fund industry. June brought the appointment of U.S. Army veteran Debra Crew as the CEO of Diageo, a noteworthy achievement given the scarcity of female CEOs among the top 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange.

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Tanzanian President Samia Hassan, and Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu have secured places on Forbes’ prestigious 100 Most Powerful Women list for 2023.

Forbes’ 20th annual ranking, released on Tuesday, positions Okonjo-Iweala at the 87th spot, underscoring her significant influence in the global economic landscape. South African businesswoman Mpumi Madisa closely follows at the 88th position. Tanzanian President Samia Hassan has made a notable debut on the list, securing the 93rd position, while Mo Abudu, the dynamic Nigerian media personality, and philanthropist, clinches the 98th spot.

Simultaneously, the entertainment industry and consumer market witnessed the triumphant influence of Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and even the iconic Barbie. Their collective impact on consumer behavior was so profound that it caught the attention of Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell.

This influence has now earned Swift the impressive No. 5 spot on the 2023 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. Beyoncé made a remarkable leap to No. 36 from 80 in 2022, marking her growing impact on the global stage. Debra Crew debuts on the list at No. 79, and Robyn Grew follows closely at No. 83. In a surprising but meaningful twist, Barbie secures the No. 100 spot, traditionally reserved for figures not conforming to the conventional image of power but ones who have significantly shaped the year.

Forbes’ 2023 Power List, grounded in four primary metrics — money, media, impact, and spheres of influence — captures the essence of women shaping policies, products, and political arenas globally. This list reflects the immense influence and leadership prowess of women across diverse sectors, from entertainment to finance, breaking barriers and redefining societal expectations.

The challenges these influential women grapple with are as diverse as their backgrounds. The fights they champion encompass reproductive autonomy in America, girls’ access to education in Afghanistan, personal rights in Iran, protection against gender-based violence in conflict zones like Ukraine and Gaza, and the urgent need for actionable climate policies safeguarding the health and well-being of women in lower-income and agriculture-based economies.

In response to the persisting gaps, philanthropist Melinda French Gates advocates a straightforward remedy for 2024 and beyond: getting women into positions of power worldwide. As she wisely notes, it is in achieving this global balance that tangible and lasting change begins to take root. The evolving dynamics of female power in 2023 highlight not just the hurdles women face but also the strength, and transformative impact they bring to the forefront of our shared global narrative.

The Full List

1Ursula von der Leyen65BelgiumPolitics & Policy
2Christine Lagarde67GermanyPolitics & Policy
3Kamala Harris59USAPolitics & Policy
4Giorgia Meloni46ItalyPolitics & Policy
5Taylor Swift33USAMedia & Entertainment
6Karen Lynch59USABusiness
7Jane Fraser56USAFinance
8Abigail Johnson61USAFinance
9Mary Barra61USABusiness
10Melinda French Gates           59USAPhilanthropy
11Julie Sweet56USABusiness
12Kristalina Georgieva70USAPolitics & Policy
13MacKenzie Scott53USAPhilanthropy
14Gail Boudreaux63USABusiness
15Emma Walmsley 54The United KingdomBusiness
16Ruth Porat66USATechnology
17Safra Catz62USATechnology
18Ana Patricia Botín63SpainFinance
19Carol Tomé66USABusiness
20Sandy Ran Xu46ChinaBusiness
21Kathryn McLay49USABusiness
22Sarah London43USABusiness
23Amy Hood51USATechnology
24Tarciana Paula Gomes Medeiros45BrazilFinance
25Laurene Powell Jobs & family60USAPhilanthropy
26Catherine MacGregor51FranceBusiness
27Janet Yellen77USAPolitics & Policy
28Gwynne Shotwell60USATechnology
29Phebe Novakovic66USABusiness
30Tsai Ing-wen67TaiwanPolitics & Policy
31Oprah Winfrey69USAMedia & Entertainment
32Nirmala Sitharaman64IndiaPolitics & Policy
33Ho Ching70SingaporeFinance
34Thasunda Brown Duckett50USAFinance
35Marianne Lake, Jennifer Piepszak              USAFinance
36Beyoncé Knowles42USAMedia & Entertainment
37Shari Redstone69USAMedia & Entertainment
38Kathy Warden52USABusiness
39Dana Walden59USAMedia & Entertainment
40Amanda Blanc56The United KingdomBusiness
41Susan Li38USATechnology
42Margherita Della Valle58USABusiness
43Adena Friedman54USAFinance
44Mary Callahan Erdoes56USAFinance
45Lynn Martin47USAFinance
46Sheikh Hasina Wajed76BangladeshPolitics & Policy
47Sri Mulyani Indrawati61IndonesiaPolitics & Policy
48Gina Rinehart69AustraliaBusiness
49Lisa Su54USATechnology
50Vicki Hollub64USABusiness
51Nicke Widyawati55IndonesiaBusiness
52Shemara Wikramanayake61AustraliaFinance
53Tricia Griffith59USABusiness
54Jessica Tan46ChinaBusiness
55Judy Faulkner80USATechnology
56Tokiko Shimizu58JapanFinance
57Donna Langley55USAMedia & Entertainment
58Jennifer Salke59USAMedia & Entertainment
59Wang Laichun56ChinaTechnology
60Roshni Nadar Malhotra42IndiaTechnology
61Jenny Johnson59USAFinance
62Yuriko Koike71JapanPolitics & Policy
63Hana Al RostamaniUnited Arab EmiratesFinance
64Suzanne Scott57USAMedia & Entertainment
65Lynn Good64USABusiness
66Sinead Gorman46The United KingdomBusiness
67Bela Bajaria52USAMedia & Entertainment
68Belén Garijo63GermanyBusiness
69Melanie Kreis52GermanyBusiness
70Soma Mondal60IndiaBusiness
71Paula SantilliMexicoBusiness
72Mette Frederiksen46DenmarkPolitics & Policy
73Joey Wat52ChinaBusiness
74Rihanna35USAMedia & Entertainment
75Linda Thomas-Greenfield71USAPolitics & Policy
76Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw70IndiaBusiness
77Güler Sabanci68TurkeyBusiness
78Trudy Shan Dai47ChinaBusiness
79Debra Crew52The United KingdomBusiness
80Robyn Denholm60AustrailiaBusiness
81Solina Chau61Hong KongPhilanthropy
82Lee Boo-jin53South KoreaBusiness
83Robyn Grew54The United KingdomFinance
84Zuzana Caputova50SlovakiaPolitics & Policy
85Mary Meeker64USAFinance
86Makiko Ono63JapanBusiness
87Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala69NigeriaPolitics & Policy
88Mpumi Madisa44South AfricaBusiness
89Melanie Perkins36AustrailiaBusiness
90Dominique Senequier70FranceFinance
91Raja Easa Al GurgUnited Arab EmiratesBusiness
92Julia Gillard62The United KingdomPhilanthropy
93Samia Suluhu Hassan63TanzaniaPolitics & Policy
94Xiomara Castro64HondurasPolitics & Policy
95Kirsten Green52USAFinance
96Choi Soo-yeon42South KoreaBusiness
97Jenny Lee       51SingaporeFinance
98Mo Abudu59NigeriaMedia & Entertainment
99Mia Mottley58BarbadosPolitics & Policy
100Barbie64USAMedia & Entertainment