Gender Inequality

The most powerful woman in the world? She's held the top spot for six years in a row

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leader of the Christian Democratic Union party CDU stands in front of her election campaign tour bus. Image: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Emma Luxton
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Gender Inequality?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Gender Inequality is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Gender Inequality

Holding on to her title for the sixth year in a row, German Chancellor Angela Merkel tops Forbes’ annual list of the most powerful women in the world.

In second place is Hillary Clinton, who has just clinched the Democratic nomination and is the first woman to advance this far in a US presidential race. Janet Yellen, the first female chair of the US Federal Reserve, is third.

The world's 10 most powerful women
Image: Forbes

The top 10 is dominated by women from the United States, who take seven of the 10 spots. Overall, the US is home to more than half of the 100 women on Forbes’ list.

However, China has a record nine women featuring in this year’s top 100. Lucy Peng, CEO of Alibaba, is the highest-ranked Chinese woman at 35th, followed closely by Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, in 38th place.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for a quarter of the top 100 women, the highest number since the survey began.

Moira Forbes, president and publisher of Forbes Women, said: “These are positive trends as women are ascending more into positions of traditional business corporate power but also political power.”

 Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), smiles after a news conference ahead of the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse - RTSEN8F
Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The list features women from 29 countries across a range of sectors such as politics, business, technology and philanthropy.

These 100 women have a combined global influence of more than 3.6 billion people and control $1 trillion in revenue.

The list includes 32 chief executives, 12 world leaders and 11 billionaires, nine of whom have built companies from scratch.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, jumped the most places, from 36th in 2015 to 19th this year.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II moved up 12 places to 29th.

 Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she walks past a bronze bust of herself during a visit to the Honourable Artillery Company June 1, 2016 in London, Britain. REUTERS/Chris Jackson/Pool - RTX2F7JZ
Image: REUTERS/Chris Jackson/Pool

Women in politics make up almost a quarter of the top 100 women.

Commenting on Angela Merkel securing the top spot yet again, Moira Forbes noted: “She’s not only the head of the fourth largest economy in the world but she’s defied existential political and economic challenges to the EU.”

Just missing out on the top 10 is Park Geun-hye, President of South Korea, who comes 12th overall, followed closely by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Two other female presidents make it into the top 20: Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan and Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile.

Pew Research Center reported in 2015 that the number of female world leaders has more than doubled since 2005, accounting for about one in 10 of today’s heads of United Nations member states.


Have you read?

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Gender InequalityLeadership
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Bridging the financial literacy gender gap: Here are 5 digital inclusion projects making a difference

Claude Dyer and Vidhi Bhatia

April 18, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum