Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton top list of women who broke through the glass ceiling

Only handful of Britons in Forbes' list of 100 most powerful women

The latest Forbes list of the world's top 100 most powerful women is dominated by Americans from the realms of politics, the media and philanthropy – and, of course, celebrity – while only two entries from British shores earn mentions, and mid-ranking ones at that. They are Queen Elizabeth II and JK Rowling.

Holding on to the No 1 spot, however, is Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, cited by Forbes editors for her pivotal role in keeping the euro alive, while the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will have to be satisfied with second place. Rounding out the top five are Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Melinda Gates, the wife of Bill Gates, and Jill Abramson, the executive editor at The New York Times. The list, like others issued by Forbes, may do more to raise the profile of the magazine than fairly to reflect the state of the glass ceiling in different nations. Lady Gaga makes No 14 in the "celebrity" category, while Britain's head of state is listed at 26, even in the year of the Jubilee and the Olympics. The highest-ranking member of the celebrity class is Oprah Winfrey. At 11, she just misses the top 10.

Presenting a list that includes no fewer than 59 US citizens (two of whom – Tina Brown (77) and Anna Wintour (51) – can claim British heritage) the magazine says it organises the rankings according to the influence the women wield, the amount of money they control and their media presence. "These power women exert influence in very different ways and to very different ends, and all with very different impacts on the global community," said Moira Forbes, the publisher of ForbesWoman.

"So many of these women are in policy or political roles, and their influence… is only growing so it's not surprising that someone like Merkel or Clinton would continue to be present on the list year to year," she added.

While numbers of Twitter followers are not cited as a criterion for inclusion, the magazine did note that the 100 women put together boast a total of 90 million followers on the social network.

Among those to have slipped a few rungs this year is Michelle Obama, the American first lady, who is at seven after topping the list as recently as 2010. Among the 21 names that dropped off the list this year is that of the conservative congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whose year began with her abandoning her bid for the White House.

Businesswomen are a big presence on the list also. A full quarter of those named are CEOs of companies who together control $984bn in revenues. They include Indra Nooyi, who is at the helm of PepsiCo, and Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft Foods. They make the 12 and 13 spots respectively.

A category labelled "humanitarian" includes Ms Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation.

"These women are changing the planet in profoundly powerful and dynamic ways," Ms Forbes said of the rankings.

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