First lady Michelle Obama beat out heads of state, chief executives and celebrities to rank as the world’s most powerful woman in Forbes magazine’s annual listing on Wednesday.
Kraft Foods Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld, who led a hostile $18 billion takeover of Britain’s Cadbury, came in second, followed by talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who is ending “The Oprah Winfrey Show” next year after 25 years to launch her cable network OWN.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, elected for a second term last year, was the fourth most powerful woman, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was put in charge of brokering Middle East peace, rounded out the top five.
Moira Forbes, vice president and publisher of ForbesWoman, said the women on the business magazine’s list were “shaping many of the agenda-setting conversations of the day.”
“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,” she said.
This year Forbes changed the way it ranked women, basing the list less on wealth and power and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship.
Last year’s winner was Merkel, followed by Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Obama ranked No. 40.
Forbes said Obama topped the list this year because “she has made the office of first lady her own” while remaining popular.
“In a telling sign of her charisma, the White House is putting her on the campaign trail to headline fundraising events in battleground states like California and Colorado,” Forbes said.
“She’s also effective: In response to her Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity, companies like Coca-Cola, Kellogg and General Mills have pledged to reduce the calorie content of their foods by 2015,” it said.
PepsiCo Inc Chief Executive Indra Nooyi, who was last week named the most powerful woman in U.S. business for the fifth year in a row by Fortune, was in sixth place, while singer Lady Gaga came in at No. 7.
Gail Kelly, chief executive of Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp, was in eighth place, followed by singer Beyonce Knowles. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres rounded out the top 10.
The complete Forbes list of the 100 most powerful women can be seen at www.forbes.com/powerwomen