Who Were The Most Influential Women over The Last Decade?

7 minute

The Forbes annual list of the most powerful women over the last decade proves something that many of us are already familiar with. In the famous words of Queen Bey, Who run the world? Girls. 

Read on to find out about some noteworthy female personalities including powerful politicians, artists, philanthropists, sportswomen, businesswomen, and CEOs around the world that influenced us immensely over the last decade. 

2011: Irene Rosenfield 

Source: News Cornell

Born in 1953, Brooklyn, New York, Rosenfield is an American business executive who was the CEO of the processed foods and snacks giant Kraft Foods. She was also the CEO of Mondelēz International, after its restructuring in the year 2011. Under her guidance and leadership, the already well-established food products company was able to expand its holdings abroad and thus dynamically reorganize the marketing strategy of its wide array of food brands. Additionally, she worked on the integration of biscuit products of Nabisco (which has been purchased by Philip Morris in the year 2001) into her company Kraft Foods. By 2001, she became a part of the committee that prepared Kraft for its first-ever public stock offering. 

2012: Ginni Rometty

Source: Wikipedia

Ranked as #1 in Fortune’s annual ranking of America’s leading businesswomen in the year 2012, Rometty is a 63-year-old IBM veteran who has been a key supporting player in some of the biggest transformations that occurred in the company. She was responsible for managing the $3.5 billion PwC Consulting acquisition that helped launch IBM in the service business. Along with Sam Palmisano, Rometty worked hard to develop the five-year growth plan. When she was CEO, she was also in charge of delivering on this said growth plan. Rometty also was successful in establishing IBM as the model of responsible stewardship in the digital age. She became the industry’s leading voice on technology ethics and worked tirelessly to help safely introduce new and useful technologies into society. 

2013: Angela Merkel

Source: Britannica

Merkel, the German politician who in 2005 became the first female chancellor of Germany, hails from Hamburg. As most children growing up in the German Democratic Republic did, she enthusiastically participated in the state’s youth organisations. Being a member of both the Young Pioneers and Free German Youth had led to a certain amount of controversy (due to the fact that some of her former colleagues claimed that she was active as a secretary for some turbulence in the form of agitation and propaganda). In the month of September, during 2013, the CDU-CSU alliance won an impressive victory in the federal election - capturing almost about 42 per cent of the vote. Her willingness to adopt the positions of her political opponents if they proved to be sensible and popular can be demonstrated through various examples. One noteworthy incident was Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the light of the Fukushima accident in 2011. 

2014: Malala Yousafzai

Source: NyPost

Born in 1997, Swat valley, Pakistan, Yosafzai is a Pakistani activist who spoke publicly against the prohibition on the education of girls that was imposed by the Pakistani Taliban. She did this while being a teenager. Prior to this, when Yousafzai was 11 years old, her father took her to a press club in their neighbourhood where she protested the school closings and gave her first speech titled “How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?”. This got publicized throughout Pakistan. She then gained global attention when her family survived an assassination attempt at the age of 15 - she and her family fled the region in order to remain safe and returned only when the violence and tensions had eased. In the year 2014, Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their efforts put towards children’s rights. 

2015: Alicia Keys

Source: BBC

Originally Alicia Augello Cook, now Alicia Keys, born 1981, New York, is a well-known American singer-songwriter, actress and pianist who became immensely famous for her soul and R&B music in the early 2000s. Keys began performing at the age of four and playing the piano at the age of seven, which is when her main focus was on classical music and jazz. She began composing music at the age of 14 and then graduated two years later as valedictorian from the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan. Her compositions had notable modern influences but were mostly rooted in the sounds of earlier artists in the genre of soul, including Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. She then attracted the attention of record mogul Clive Davis and signed to his company - Arista Records. 2015 marked the year that she appeared on the Red Carpet with Jody Gerson on the red carpet of the Women in Music hosted by Billboard.

 2016: Hillary Clinton 

Source: Britannica

Hillary Rodham Clinton, born in 1946, Chicago, Illinois, is an American lawyer and politician who served as a senator for the United States and later, the Secretary of State in the administration of President Barack Obama. The eldest child of Hugh and Dorothy Rodham, Hillary grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, where her father’s business provided the family with a comfortable income. Her parents always emphasised hard work and set high standards for academic excellence. From 1993 to 2001, she served as the first lady during the administration of her husband - Bill Clinton (42nd President of the United States). In 2016, she was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, and she became the first woman to ever have topped the presidential ticket of a majority in the U.S.

2017: Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern

Source: TIME

Born in 1980, Ardern is a New Zealand politician who became the leader of the New Zealand Labour party in the month of August 2017 and then went onto become the country’s youngest prime minister in October, during the same year. She was 37 at the time, making her the youngest minister there ever had been in over 150 years. Even before she completed her bachelor’s course in Communication Studies, Ardern had begun her association with the Labour Party. At the age of 17, in the year 1999, she was able to join the party, and with the help of her aunt, became involved in the re-election campaign of a Labour MP in the district of New Plymouth. After she graduated, she became a researcher for another Labour MP and this experience helped her secure a position on the staff of former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is Ardern’s mentor and political hero. 

2018: Meghan Markle

Source: hellomagazine

Meghan is an American British actress and the consort to Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, sixth in line to the British throne. Her big break was when she got cast as a paralegal (Rachel Zane) in the popular drama series Suits (2011-19). She was even known to play some leading roles in movies such as Random Encounters and Anti-Social. She even ran a lifestyle blog called The Tig from the year 2014 to 2017. After being introduced to Prince Harry by a mutual friend in the year 2016, Rachel and Harry went on a camping date trip to Botswana, and the tabloid presses covered this far and wide. Late the same year Harry made their relationship public while bashing the British press for its treatment of Markle. They got engaged in 2017 and then got married at Windsor Castle in the month of May 2018. She was then given the title Duchess of Sussex. Their first child, Archie, was born on the 6th of May, 2019.

2019: Jasmin Akhter

Source: givemesport

A Rohingya refugee born in Bangladesh, Akhter has been included in the list of BBC's "100 Inspiring and Influential Women” for the year 2019. Her excellence in sports put her name on the list. When Jasmin was 8, nearly a decade ago, her family was resettled to the United Kingdom under the Gateway Resettlement Programme of the United Nations Refugee Agency. Jasmin faced trouble when her mother got injured in a road accident, making Jasmin her only caregiver. Being good at both batting and bowling, Jasmin found relief growing up in the UK as she was able to enjoy playing the sport she loved the most. Later, along with her friends, she started an all-Asian girls' cricket team in Bradford. She was then chosen as the captain of the England team in the Street Child World Cup through the help of Centrepoint (which is an NGO that works against youth homelessness in the UK). The staff met Jasmin at a local community centre and asked her to join the team.

2020: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Source: ocasio

An American Democratic Socialist who made headlines in 2018 by beating a 10-term New York Democrat incumbent in a congressional primary, Cortez hails from Bronx, New York. On November 6th, 2020, less than a month after she turned 29, she won the general election to become the youngest woman to ever have been elected to Congress. Despite it being her first time running for office, and as a candidate of Puerto Rican descent, her tremendous victory shed hope for her liberal supporters. In the month of October, she drew attention due to her pointed questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the policies that the social media platform held regarding the permissibility of political ads with misleading information.


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