Fortune's Powerful Women

BlogHer Original Post

If you're needing a bit of business inspiration, look no further than Fortune Magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women list, which came out a few days ago. Fifty fabulous women who are strong, powerful, and -- oh yeah -- rich.

It starts with Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi (who's now topped the list three years in a row), and concludes with their youngest inductee ever: 33-year-old Marissa Mayer, a VP at Google. One needn't look any further for examples of business success than this varied list of women.

Of course, defining power is a tricky thing. A month ago Forbes conducted a little survey:

Who are the three most powerful women in the world? Obviously it depends on who you ask. In Forbes' ranking of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women, we take a rigorous methodological approach that measures public profile and financial heft. But "power" can be defined in many different ways. What would happen if we asked a group of successful women whom they would pick?

The answers they gathered are very varied, and include some women who didn't (and never will) make Fortune's list, because they simply don't have the stocks and dollars to go along with their power. Do you know who both made the Fortune list and came up a bunch in the "who would you pick" survey, though? Oprah. Of course.

SARAHSPY's cheeky assessment was accompanied by a picture of Oprah surrounded by fans, wherein "Are U Santa?" was written over the image (heh) and her commentary concluded this way:

From THE OPRAH we can learn that Power = Generosity. You've got to GIVE to get the POWER.

THE OPRAH's teachings indicate that power won't come to you just 'cause you're cute or hip or kinda smart. And sometimes you won't even like the people you're gifting; sometimes these people will be super annoying & it will pain you to be so kind. But remember: People only flock to those who gift expensive presents. And that's one really good & proven path to POWER.

This was not the salient criterion for the Fortune list, however. No, Fortune's guidelines are more distinct:

We rank corporate women in for-profit businesses only, and rankings are based on four criteria: the size and importance of the business in the global economy, the health and direction of the business, the arc of her career, and her social and cultural relevance.

This rules out women who work in/for non-profits, or who are powerful due to social and cultural relevance but aren't heading up a corporation. And they're Fortune, after all, so that makes sense, but it does rule out most of the women mentioned in the Forbes survey because they're not corporation-types. Which is kind of a shame.

Lemondrop cautions that this list is hardly cause for celebration, though:

But powerful women still lag behind their male counterparts. Sharilyn Gasaway, CFO of Alltell, was the list's top earner; she brought home $38.6 million last year. In 2007, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, topped Forbes' list of most powerful men in business, with earnings of $350.7 million. And even the 25th-ranked guy on the list earned millions more than the top female earner.

So even though these women are definitely making way more than we'll ever see in our lifetimes, they still aren't measuring up to their male counterparts.

And in a time where the economy is on shaky ground while women are in the spotlight, WSJ's Heidi N. Moore wonder if perhaps the most telling aspect of the Fortune list is the women who are no longer on it. So are Women on Wall Street a Shrinking Club or Not?:

In the past year, the three highest ranking women on Wall Street have left their jobs: Zoe Cruz, co-president of Morgan Stanley, Erin Callan, chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers Holdings, and Sallie Krawcheck, the head of wealth management for Citigroup.

The moves intersect with renewed concerns about whether female progress has stalled even as two prominent women have sought the high public offices: Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

It's all good food for thought. And here I'd just been pleased to note the ages of the majority of the women on the list; in a culture that wants us to believe women over 29 are all washed up, I found it refreshing that the average age here was over 50. That means I have plenty of time left to go be amazing, right?

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir also blogs about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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