Although we are just nine years into the twenty-first century, the stage has been set for breaking the traditional mould when it comes to people who will influence us. Today, many of world’s decision makers are women. Coming from diverse backgrounds, these women with sharp sensibilities have already marked influence in their respective spheres. Given the significant contribution made by these women, the order of the list below in no way suggests their importance.
1. Hillary Rodham Clinton
The present U.S Secretary of State, although having lost the Democratic Presidential nomination of 2008 to Barack Obama, continues to be the most significantly influential female of our century. She led a variety of political initiatives and campaigns including the successful leadership of the reform program for Arkansas’ education system. She served as the First Lady of the United States of America during her husband Bill Clinton’s 10 years’ presidential tenure and later became the first female Senator to represent New York in 2000, and was re-elected to the same office in 2006. In the race for presidential elections of 2008, she won more delegates and primaries than any other American woman in the history and, despite losing to Barack Obama, secured yet another distinction by becoming the only First Lady to have ever served in the president’s cabinet. She enjoys a prominent position as a cabinet member today with her strong advocacy of strengthening diplomatic ties, and notable oratory.
2. Benazir Bhutto
Daughter of the executed and much celebrated Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto first appeared on the scene of global politics as she took over the reins of the her late father’s national party (Pakistan People’s Party). In a struggle that continued for the rest of her life, she organized and mobilized support for the cause of her party and her people, finally becoming the first female to attain premiership of an Islamic Republic and that, too, twice. Exiled in late 1990’s, she returned to the politically-chaotic landscape of Pakistan to remobilize the masses; however, she lost her life in a terrorist attack in 2007 while addressing a large array of her supporters in Rawalpindi. This sent shock waves throughout the realm of global politics where she was considered to be a legendary politician and a leader who prioritized the construction of diplomatic relations and made laudable contributions to the causes of democracy and women empowerment.
3. Sonia Gandhi
She is the Italian-born President of the Indian National Congress, the most popular Indian Political party presided over for the last fifty five years by the members of the Nehru family. She came into politics after the demise of her late husband Rajiv Gandhi, Ex-Prime Minister of India. She has enjoyed considerable prominence in terms of position and influence in Indian politics, where it is a sheer achievement to represent a party that represents a religiously and culturally diverse population. She has been twice nominated by world magazines like Forbes and Times as one of the most influential women of the year.
4. Condoleezza Rice
The former U.S Secretary of State is a professor, diplomat, author and also serves as a national security expert, a role that has rooted her firmly in the circles of the influential few in the policy-making sphere. She was the first African-American female Secretary of State and served as George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor. Her emphasis on supporting democratically elected governments all around the world and her efforts for peace in the Middle East, in the form of what she termed ‘Transformational Policy’ were hindered by the American government’s support for various authoritarian governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. During her tenure as a National Security Advisor the President Bush, she attracted her share of criticism for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has now returned to Stanford University as a professor of Political Science where she continues to influence the minds and policies of not just the students but of the varied policy makers who consult her on various national security issues.
5. Oprah Winfrey
An anchorperson, a media mogul, and a magazine publisher who gained fame through her self-named multi-award winning television show in which she discusses everything from personal issues to social issues and has grounded herself as an individuals who can mould and question public and political opinions in a responsible manner. Ranked as one of the richest African Americans and repeatedly as a most influential African American by some sources, she has revolutionized a more intimate and confessional form of communication through the medium of media. It is a decade or so after she first aired her show and still continues to enjoy immense popularity and considerable influence even in political circles through activities of charity and her campaigning for president Barack Obama.
6. Queen Rania of Jordan
She has been bestowed upon the awards of being one of the most beautiful women in the world and that of being one of the most influential women of the Arab world. As the wife to the King of Jordan, Queen Rania is an activist for popularizing education for all and has been involved in initiatives for increased female empowerment and literacy improvements. Her efforts to engage with the youth and to make common the cause of Islam and that of her country, through progressive medium like a You Tube channel of her own, has made her incredibly popular in not just the youth in Islamic countries but even worldwide. She also enjoys the role of being a fashion icon in her own right.
7. Shirin Ebadi
The Iranian Lawyer who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Award for furthering the cause of justice and human rights in her country is noted as one of those who have continuously struggled against the Islamist Regime to maintain what has been fragments of a fair justice system in the Iran of the post 1979-revolution. In her book where she narrates accounts of her struggle against the authorities to protect battered children and women and to fight cases against the government itself, her sacrifice of personal security for the cause of nationalism has placed her in the very center of what can be the future of Iran as termed by many who appreciated her winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
8. Christiane Amanpour
It is her willingness to report from the most dangerous of spots and on the most controversial of issues that has won Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Consultant, widespread critical acclaim for her riveting take on the politics in Middle East and her analysis of the review of the peace-process fraught with institutional hurdles. Having begun her career with CNN, she is recognized for having reported from various war zones including Bosnia. Also, she has had her fair share of controversy related to her interviews of personalities like Yasir Irafat and key political figures from Iran, her native country that she and her family fled from when she was still a child.
9. Indira Nooyi
As the CEO of Pepsico, Indira Nooyi has won repeated nominations in lists of Worl’d Most Powerful Women. Having lent her “mad business skills” to the establishment of brands like Taco Bell and KFC, among others, Indira Nooyi has brought about significant increase in the profit margins of her company, serving as the first native-Indian CEO to have ever presided over the company.
10. Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner
Argentina’s first female president, Kichner presided over her country remarkably well pulling it through times of political and economic upheaval and leading it to a period of economic boom. During her time, Argentina registered as a fastest growing economy. Despite this, her government attracted rigid criticism for not rooting out corruption and not dealing well with problems of unemployment and poverty. She still continues to be a political figure in her own league, having made laudable contributions to Argentina’s public policy.