TIME magazine's annual publication of the world's 100 most influential people hit newsstands on Friday. Divided into the categories "Pioneers," "Titans," "Leaders," "Artists," and "Icons," those who make the list, as TIME executive editor Radhika Jones puts it, "for better or for worse, are moving things forward" (so this may explain why North Korean bully Kim Jong-un still made the cut). As in the past few years, numerous women were included in the list, and this says a lot about how women — and female leaders in particular — figure into the world landscape today.
Thirty-five women make the list this year, proving that women are key players in the world, more so than ever before. Last year saw the list's highest number of women to date (there were 38), but women representing over a third of the list is nonetheless a vast improvement compared to years past.
Of course, women have always acted as world influencers, but the recognition certainly feels nice, right? After all, it is well deserved, and recognizing women's influence further influences and incentives other women to contribute to numerous fields often once considered male-only. The most recent list, for example, demonstrates women's growing role in the fields of science and technology; the three female AIDS researchers who successfully cured an infant of HIV are categorized as pioneers, as is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Breast cancer specialist Dr. Kimberly Blackwell also made the list. Women have broken down the gender-separating barriers in numerous fields, and this shows that science and technology is the new front on which women can succeed, and be just as vital as men.
Being a female, however, certainly can act as a hurdle, which many women on the list first had to overcome in order to reach their current states of influence. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Pioneer category accounts for ten of the women (over a quarter) on the list. Women do not receive acknowledgement merely for their accomplishments in most cases. Instead, they have to overcome sexism and adversary through pioneering, and only then will they be recognized for their standout achievements.
Only the Icon category includes more women, with 11 total. While this, once again, is an honor, it implies that women can sometimes be seen more as objects (instead of human beings) of iconography, versus leaders, artists, or titans (however you may want to define that). Beyonce, Lena Dunham, Michelle Obama, and Kate Middleton all hold spots in this category on the 2013 list. Women account for only five places on both the Leaders and Artists lists, on the other hand, and only four on the Titans list (which includes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg).
Finally (and most importantly perhaps), in a year during which "leaning in" became a buzzword, this group of influential women, recognized in TIME, demonstrate that women can be mothers while maintaining positions as leaders, pioneers, artists, icons, and titans, but they certainly don't have to. About 40% of the women on TIME's list are mothers, up from just about 30% last year (and one, Kate Middleton, has one on the way).
A topic that has been fiercely debated in recent months, the balance of careers with motherhood is clearly one that can be accomplished, at least by some women. Thus, it should not be considered a hindrance in becoming an influential person, not only in the U.S., but also in the world.
Women, obviously, are major influencers in the world. Female activists, actresses, CEOs, doctors, and political leaders contribute to their communities, domestic and global, everyday and thus deserve recognition. While men still dominate TIME's list, perhaps unjustly, the 2013 publication demonstrates that women are leaders, women are deserving of recognition, women can make their own choices as far as marriage and family, and as influencer Beyonce would say, girls run the world.