Merkel tops Forbes 100 most powerful women list with Clinton close behind

German chancellor Angela Merkel has topped the Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, but may have a fight on her hands to retain the title.

Former secretary of state and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at No 2, is “just a breath and a ballot away from the most powerful woman crown,” said the list’s compilers.

The 2015 list also features newcomer Taylor Swift, at 25 the youngest on it, with the singer/songwriter placed at No 64.

Top ranked in the entertainment industry is Beyoncé, whose On The Run joint tour with her husband, Jay Z, grossed more than £100m last year.

The Forbes list is compiled using the criteria of money, media momentum, spheres of influence and impact.

While Merkel, 60, claims the top slot for the fifth year in succession, and has made the list 10 times over the past 12 years – nine of them as No 1 – she faces a stiff challenge in the future, said Forbes. “She could lose her title for the first time since 2010 to the one person with a credible and mathematical chance of ‘leading’ the world, Hillary Clinton.”

Clinton, 67, has appeared in the Forbes rankings every year since its 2004 launch, as senator, secretary of state, influential personality and now presidential hopeful.

Top-ranked billionaire is Oprah Winfrey, who has a personal net wealth estimated at £2bn, and is placed at No 12. Her Harpo Productions company co-produced the awardwinning film Selma.

Anna Wintour, Condé Nast artistic director, is the top-ranked woman in media at No 28, with Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, at No 61, and list newcomer Katharine Viner, 44, the Guardian’s newly appointed editor-in-chief, at No 80.

Other newcomers include Ana Botín, 54, newly installed chair of Santander Group, Spain, who is ranked top woman in finance at No 18. Elizabeth Holmes, 31, described as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, who founded blood donor company Theranos and is now said to be worth an estimated £3bn, also makes her debut and is ranked No 72.

This year, 17 women under the age of 45 made it onto the annual list.

“The current era of female empowerment is stronger and better than ever, and the growing number of younger influences on the list is enough proof that age is nothing but a number,” the list compilers said.

Sheryl Sandberg, 45, the former Google executive who is now Facebook’s chief operating officer, is the highest ranking of the 45-and-unders, coming in at No 8. She is also, for the fourth year running, the highest placed woman in technology. Marissa Mayer, 38, meanwhile, who as Yahoo’s chief reportedly on a £27m salary is one of the highest paid CEOs in the US, is ranked No 22.

In total, seven Silicon Valley executives made it into the top 25.

Others to make the list include Ellen DeGeneres, 57, the comedian, producer and philanthropist, at No 50, actor Angelina Jolie, at No 54, and singer Shakira Mebarak, at No 81.

Seven of the women to appear on the 2015 list appeared on the first list back in 2004 – Melinda Gates, Christine Lagarde, Clinton, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II (at No 41) and Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek.

Announcing the list, Forbes said: “The 2015 Most Powerful Women list features eight heads of state (plus one monarch) who run nations with a combined GDP of $9.1tn with over 600 million citizens – including the newly elected Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz.

“The 24 corporate CEOs control nearly $1tn in annual revenues, and 18 of the women here founded their own companies or foundations, including our youngest self-made billionaire, Elizabeth Holmes, 31.

“Speaking of, this year’s class has 15 billionaires with cumulative net worth of nearly $75 billion. The total social media footprint (Twitter, YouTube) of all 100 power women is nearly 475 million followers.”

Top 25

  1. Angela Merkel, German chancellor.
  2. Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and US presidential candidate.
  3. Melinda Gates, 50, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Since starting the foundation in 1998, it has committed more than £17bn in grants, said Forbes.
  4. Janet Yellen, 68, chair of the Federal Reserve in Washington.
  5. Mary Barra, 53, CEO of General Motors.
  6. Christine Lagarde, 59, managing director, International Monetary Fund.
  7. Dilma Rousseff, 67, president of Brazil.
  8. Sheryl Sandberg, 45, CEO of Facebook.
  9. Susan Wojcicki, 46, CEO of YouTube.
  10. Michelle Obama, 51, first lady, United States.
  11. Park Geun-hye, 63, president of South Korea.
  12. Oprah Winfrey, 61, media mogul.
  13. Virginia Rometty, 57, CEO at IBM.
  14. Meg Whitman, 58, CEO, Hewlett-Packard.
  15. Indra Nooyi, 59, CEO, Pepsico.
  16. Cristina Kircher, 62, president, Argentina.
  17. Irene Rosenfeld, 62, CEO, Mondelēz International.
  18. Ana Botín, 54, chair, Santander Group.
  19. Abigail Johnson, 53, CEO, Fidelity Investments.
  20. Marillyn Hewson, 61, chair, Lockheed Martin.
  21. Beyoncé Knowles, 33, entertainer and entrepreneur.
  22. Marissa Mayer, 39, CEO, Yahoo.
  23. Helen Clark, 65, administrator, UN Development Programme.
  24. Safra Catz, 53, co-CEO Oracle.
  25. Angela Ahrendts, 54, senior vice president, Apple.
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