10 Most Powerful Women in the World

For nine years, Forbes has been ranking the 100 most powerful women in the world, based on their adherence to the "traditional" classifications of power (political and economic might), and rising to the "top of the social and cultural landscape."

From that list, I've selected the top 10 from the categories of politics, humanitarian, media, technology, business, celebrity, fashion and retail, and billionaire. Here's who made my cut:

1. Melinda Gates: Co-Chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Country of Citizenship: United States           

Category: Humanitarian

Highlighted Achievement: A practicing Catholic, Melinda Gates made news when she challenged the Vatican to reverse its position against birth control and vowed to dedicate her life and $560 million to improving access to women in some of the world's poorest countries.

2. Rosalia Mera: Investor, Philanthropist


Country of Citizenship: Spain

Category: Billionaire

Highlighted Achievement: Rosalia Meria, a divorced mother of two, not only makes the list of the 20 richest women in the world, she is one of two on that list that are self-made billionaires — a long way up from when she dropped out of school at 11 to work as a seamstress.

3. Shaikha Al-Bahar: CEO-Kuwait, National Bank of Kuwait


Country of Citizenship: Kuwait

Category: Business

Highlighted Achievement: Global Finance, Euromoney and The Banker named The National Bank of Kuwait the “Best Bank in the Middle East” in 2011. Al-Bahar has served as chairwoman of the Al Watany Bank of Egypt and also sits on the board of the International Bank of Qatar.

4. Ellen DeGeneres: Comedian, Personality, and Philanthropist


Country of Citizenship: United States

Category: Celebrity

Highlighted Achievement: American entertainer and prominent gay rights advocate Ellen DeGeneres holds the highest U.S. award for achievement in comedy. The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was awarded to DeGeneres in October and was praised as a pioneering female comic whose daytime television show has helped define the daytime television format in recent years.

5. Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani: Chair, Qatar Museums Authority


County of Citizenship: Qatar

Category: Humanitarian

Highlighted Achievement: Arguably the most powerful woman in the art world today, head of the Qatar Museums Authority, Al-Thani, by Forbes estimates, controls an annual art-buying budget in the neighborhood of $250 million.

6. Marjorie Scardino: CEO, Pearson


Country of Citizenship: United States

Category: Media

Highlighted Achievement: Scardino has led UK-based Pearson since 1997 and today oversees more than 41,000 employees and $9 billion in revenues while guiding the 168-year-old publishing business through a digital transformation.

7. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner: President of Argentina


Country of Citizenship: Argentina

Category: Politics

Highlighted Achievement: Second term president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made news when she approved advertisements for Argentina's Olympic team that disputed British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. On the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War this past June, Fernandez de Kirchner renewed her country's claim to the islands.

8. Ursula Burns: Chair and CEO, Xerox


Country of Citizenship: United States

Category: Technology

Highlighted Achievement: CEO Ursula Burns' efforts to reframe Xerox as a services business rather than a strict selling business have led to the creation of services like managing electronic ticket transactions, road tolls and parking meters, which bring in half of all revenues. Since beginning her career at Xerox in 1980 as a summer engineering intern, Burns broke the mold when she eventually became the first black woman ever to run a major U.S. corporation.

9. Susan Wojciki: Senior Vice President, Google


Country of Citizenship: United States

Category: Technology

Highlighted Achievement: Susan Wojcicki is the woman behind all of Google's ad products, AdWords and AdSense, Analytics and DoubleClick, and was responsible for 96% of the company's $37.9 billion revenue in 2011.

Bonus; Alice Walton: Chair, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


Country of Citizenship: United States

Category: Fashion and Retail

Highlighted Achievement: Walton opened her ambitious Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in November 2011, which seeks to bring a world-class art experience to Bentonville, Arkansas, includes works she has donated herself including a personal collection valued in hundreds of millions of dollars.

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