The 2020 List Of The World’s Most Powerful Women: How Will Female Leaders Fare Post-Pandemic?
Moira Forbes |Forbes Staff | ForbesWomen
As the world wrestles with a series of converging crises catalyzed by Covid-19, this year has been a reminder of how ephemeral and volatile power can be, how much of it is at play, where systemic imbalances exist, and how quickly shifts can unfold.
And nowhere is that more apparent than in women’s power today and how it’s faring on the world stage. The pandemic’s social and economic tolls have disproportionately impacted women, exacerbating centuries-old inequalities and threatening the gains we’ve spent decades fighting for. The consequences of ignoring or not solving for this will be dire for all.
The leaders on Forbes’ 2020 list of the World’s Most Powerful Women are playing a critical role in determining what the post-pandemic world will look like. Their influence is being leveraged beyond economic and political might to transform industries and solve for society’s most urgent issues. The power they hold to move us all forward has never been more apparent – or needed.
How will female leaders fare post-pandemic? The current crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity to change systems and upend outdated power structures. But for lasting progress to be realized, equity must remain at the forefront of our recovery efforts. If women have more power, we can rebuild our economies and societies faster and emerge more equitably. Power is parity.
More Power in More Places
Female firsts have made headlines throughout the year, but the more significant takeaway from the 2020 ranking is that women’s influence is now being wielded across more corridors of power than ever.
This year’s newcomers underscore this trendline. Most notably, Kamala Harris (#3 in 2020) makes her list debut as the highest-ranking and most powerful female elected official in U.S. history. She joins 22 other listees shaping the world’s political agenda and collectively influencing one-third of the global GDP.
We’ve also witnessed women making notable headway in other male-dominated arenas this year. Jane Fraser (#23) has broken Wall Street’s highest glass-ceiling as she prepares to take the helm of Citi in February. With world priorities shifting to the pandemic frontlines, women’s leadership across the coronavirus economy has leveled up as well. Global healthcare giant CVS Health tapped Karen Lynch (#38) as their incoming CEO, which makes it the biggest S&P 500 company to be run by a woman. GSK chief Emma Walmsley (#12) is spearheading one of the world’s largest Covid vaccine efforts and UPS head and list newcomer Carol Tome (#39) is working in lockstep with producers to safely deliver billions of doses.
As the pandemic has tested the leadership of heads of state worldwide, female political leaders have risen to the challenge to steer us toward recovery. And they’re getting well-deserved attention.
All eyes have been on the world’s youngest head of government, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin (#85), who put in place decisive measures to limit spread of the virus, along with New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden (#32), whose swift lockdowns successfully eliminated the virus in both its first and second waves. Heralded as implementing one of the world’s most effective pandemic response protocols, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen (#37) deployed a unified strategy of rules and procedures to protect public health.
Their efforts not only stand out as new models of competent leadership but offer the world an expanded blueprint for navigating through times of crisis. What’s more, they collectively reinforce the critical importance that gender balance in leadership can help us all build back better.
Paying Power Forward
The events of 2020 demand that power today is won and wielded more in terms of impact than ever before. Leaders are paying their power forward, with social impact now at the forefront rather than a footnote, of their efforts to rebuild a stronger and more equitable society.
Anne Finucane (#36) is leading Bank of America’s $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity accelerated by the pandemic. Entertainment mogul Rihanna (#69) put the full weight of her platform behind Covid-19 relief efforts, raising millions of dollars and critical awareness supporting issues including domestic violence victims during lockdown. We’re also seeing business leaders hold their industries accountable. Two notable examples: Nasdaq’s Adena Friedman (#33) is seeking S.E.C. approval for a diversity mandate that would require their more than 3,000 list companies to have at least two diverse board members and disclose diversity statistics. Similarly, the calls from Mellody Hobson (#94), Ariel Investment Co-CEO and a board member at Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase, to corporate America to address their systemic inequalities have had even greater resonance in the wake of 2020’s racial reckoning, and underscores how this year’s listees are channeling both hard and soft power for change.
We stand at an inflection point. And as we look to the future, the 2020 list of World’s Most Powerful Women illuminates the momentum that is building and that has the potential to transform the face of power for generations to come.
See the full list of 2020’s World’s 100 Most Powerful Women here.
Article originally published on Forbes.