Michelle beats Hillary in 'most powerful woman' list

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The Independent Online

Michelle Obama has been named as the world's most powerful woman, ahead of the likes of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Oprah Winfrey. The Queen, however, did not even make the top 10.

Mrs Obama rose to the top spot in this year's Most Powerful Women list, released yesterday by the US business magazine Forbes, after being placed a relatively lowly 40th last year. Mrs Clinton, the US Secretary of State, also enjoyed a significant rise in the rankings, from 36th last year to fifth.

Forbes said this year's index took less account of traditional calculations of wealth and position, setting more store by the women's creative influence and entrepreneurship.

"Mrs Clinton has been at the focus of a great deal of media attention with her work in the Middle East over the last 12 months. She was also heavily involved in nuclear talks in Russia and with the Turkish-Armenian Treaty," said Mary Ellen Egan, executive managing editor of ForbesWoman.

Ms Egan explained that, while wealth was still taken into account, the formulation of this year's list was weighted more towards media attention and social influence. She said: "That means we could be seeing much more volatile lists in the future; if someone who is relatively unknown today develops a very high profile next year, they could be in.

"On the other hand, if someone like Michelle Obama – who has been a forceful advocate of several items of legislation in the States – withdraws from the limelight, she could be out," she added.

Queen Elizabeth II, the only British woman to make the top 100, rose up the rankings by one place to 41st – far below singers Lady Gaga and Beyoncé Knowles (7th and 9th respectively) and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (4th). Her relatively lowly position is due to her having "had a quiet year", Ms Egan said.

The respected index is drawn up each year by the US magazine as part of a series of lists measuring influence. The publication also releases lists of top billionaires and a celebrity index.

American women dominate the top 10, with Angela Merkel the highest-ranked European. Further down the list, France's First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy comes in at 35th, while model Heidi Klum is at 39.

Although the Queen is the only British national to feature in the top 100, she is joined by a handful of UK-based businesswomen. Of these, Anglo-American's chief executive Cynthia Carroll is the highest ranked, at 14th.

Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts and British citizen Dame Marjorie Scardino, of publishing firm Pearson, were placed 97th and 63rd respectively.

Commenting on this year's entrants, Moira Forbes, vice president and publisher of ForbesWoman, said: "The women on our list, through their respective realms of power and influence, are shaping many of the agenda-setting conversations of our day, and have become dynamic catalysts for driving change across the world.

"They have built companies and brands, sometimes by non-traditional means and they have broken through gender barriers in areas of commerce, politics, sports and media and cultural zeitgeist, and thereby affecting the lives of millions, sometimes billions of people."

Leading ladies: The Forbes Top 5

1. Michelle Obama

She hasn't won an election, nor led a palace coup, but when you're married to the world's most powerful man the influence comes naturally.

2. Irene Rosenfeld

She is both chief executive and chairman of Kraft Foods, a £30bn global business which recently swallowed up Cadbury. She has been described as deeply competitive, private and driven.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Having survived an unenviable childhood, she found her perfect niche as a television talk show host on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is the host all the A-listers want to be interviewed by.

4. Angela Merkel

The leader of the Christian Democrats is now in her second term as Chancellor of Germany, an economic powerhouse which is arguably the most influential country within the European Union. She is the first Chancellor to come from the old East Germany.

5. Hillary Clinton

Being married to a previous president didn't stop Mrs Clinton from forging her own political career. Having been beaten to the Democratic nomination by Barack Obama, she was amply compensated by being appointed as his Secretary of State.

The Forbes List

The leading figures on some of Forbes's other lists:

Most powerful people: Barack Obama

Richest billionaire: Carlos Slim Helu, worth $53.5bn

Most powerful celebrity: Oprah Winfrey

Richest fictional character: Carlisle Cullen from the Twilight series, worth $34.1bn

Top-earning model: Gisele Bündchen, $25m

America's most expensive ZIP code: 91008, Duarte, California

Top-earning dead celebrity: Yves Saint Laurent, $350m

Best city for singles: New York City

Best country for business: Denmark