• 10 heads of state are among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, compiled by Forbes.
  • But there’s still more to be done to close the gender gap.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found that women occupy just 25% of parliamentary positions around the world.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the time women spend on domestic chores.

Business magazine Forbes has published its 2020 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Hailing from 30 countries and born across four generations, the ranking – now in its 17th year – includes 10 heads of state, 38 chief executives and five entertainers.

Forbes compiles the rankings using four metrics: money, media mentions, impact and spheres of influence.

Here, we share the top five.

1. Angela Merkel – Chancellor, Germany

Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany in 2005 and is now in her fourth term. She remains the “de facto leader of Europe”, Forbes says, leading the region's largest economy after steering Germany through the financial crisis and back to growth.

2. Christine Lagarde – President, European Central Bank

In November 2019, Lagarde became the first woman to head the European Central Bank, which manages Europe's single currency and monetary policy in the 19-nation Eurozone. She was previously the first woman to run the International Monetary Fund, a 190-country organization that ensures the stability of the international monetary system.

3. Kamala Harris – Vice President-elect, United States

Harris became the first woman in American history elected to the vice presidency in November 2020. When she was sworn in as a United States Senator for California, in 2017, she became the second African-American woman - and first South Asian-American - senator in history.

4. Ursula von der Leyen – President, European Commission, European Union

Von der Leyen is the first woman president of the European Commission, which oversees the laws, policies and budget of the European Union. Before being appointed to this role in July 2019, she was the longest-serving member of Angela Merkel's cabinet, where she was also Germany’s first woman defence minister.

5. Melinda Gates – Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Gates is co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private charitable foundation with a $40 billion trust endowment. “Gates maintains her position as the most powerful woman in philanthropy,” Forbes says. “She's increasingly visible in shaping foundation strategy, solving tough global challenges from education and poverty to contraception and sanitation.”

Mind the gap

Among the 100 in the full list, there are some groundbreaking women who have smashed through the glass ceiling to become global leaders.

But the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found that women occupy just 25% of parliamentary positions around the world and only 21% at a ministerial level.

The most worrying gender gap is in economic participation with only 55% of women engaged in the labour market, compared to 78% of men.

“There is no country where men spend the same amount of time on unpaid work as women.”

This is something the COVID-19 pandemic has only made worse, with a recent UN Women report finding 28% of women said the intensity of their domestic work has increased since the pandemic began, compared to 16% of men.