The World’s Most Powerful Women in 2019: Finance Dominates Top Ten


Every year, US publication Forbes compiles a list of the most influential female leaders from across the globe, in sectors including politics, business and entertainment. These women redefine traditional power structures and forge lasting impact in every industry and sphere of influence.

This year, the top ten is dominated by powerful women, with three of them belonging to the world of finance.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, who has placed second. She has moved up one place from third last year, replacing Theresa May who has, understandably dropped out of the list altogether.

These women are dominating in the world of finance, using their power to scale global businesses and make significant progress in advancing equality. A perfect example of this can be seen when looking at number seven on the list, US-based Abigail Johnson, CEO of Fidelity Investments. She has served in this position since 2014 when she took over from her father.

Having worked within the finance industry for a number of decades I have had the opportunity to work with many powerful women who have achieved their successes based on meritocracy rather than a gender equality narrative.

However, whilst the accomplishments of all the women in the list are impressive on their own, it cannot be denied that it will have been more difficult for them to establish inroads into industries and job titles that have and still are traditionally dominated by men.

Next on the list, at number eight, is Ana Patricia Botin, Executive Chairman of Santander. She became chair of the company in 2014 and has championed fintech and focused on entrepreneurs, backing small enterprise and women-owned businesses.

In the last decade we have seen the ability to create influence and power has evolved and this is particularly true for women. There has been a sense of momentum that has challenged traditional power structures and brought forward a global dialogue on gender inequalities.

Interestingly, taking the number nine post is Gini Rometty, CEO of IBM. Whilst not technically finance, her dominance in the world of tech is certainly noteworthy, especially as she has led IBM’s transition to a data company. Today, half of IBM’s $79.1 billion 2017 revenue comes from the emerging, high-value segments of IT vs its legacy software products. Her ongoing efforts to keep women in the workforce have included extended parental leave, a breastmilk delivery program and returnships.

In 2019, there has been further debate about what ‘most powerful’ really means. Many senior women have been questioning what effective power is all about, which may in the end, benefit us all by tilting further to purpose and societal good. There is definitely a need for greater diversity in all its forms whether it is gender, race, background and orientation. Businesses need to show purpose and reflect society.

The women on the 2019 list certainly honour this and what is striking is the collective dominance across a number of industries included in the list. As Forbes itself explains:

‘Three leaders now dominate the defence industry, women helm the world’s two largest stock exchanges, and leading within the pharmaceutical industry are the world’s 4th largest drugmaker and India’s largest biopharma company. What’s more, the list now boasts seven self-made billionaires and seventeen women changing the face of tech.’

It is also worth noting this year’s women who represent business oversee more than $2.4 trillion in annual revenue and $14 billion in assets managed with more than seven million employees under their stewardship.

While glass ceilings still exist, women today are wielding unprecedented business and economic might on the global stage. This will pave the way for more women to drive change in every industry in years to come.

Rami Cassis
16th December 2019