Secretary of state
She is the first African-American woman to become the U.S. secretary of state. She advises the leader of the world's largest superpower and has an unparalleled level of trust with and access to the president. And she has served two other U.S. presidents, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. For all of these reasons, and more, Rice, 50, is the most powerful woman in the world.
After a four-year role as national security adviser, Rice assumed the mantle of secretary of state in January. Rice has played a key, behind-the-scenes role in all of President George W. Bush's major decisions. "During the last four years, I've relied on her counsel, benefited from her great experience and appreciated her sound and steady judgment," the president said when announcing Rice's promotion. Bush needs her now more than ever, as his approval ratings and credibility sag, his domestic agenda is stalled, and the country grows more bitterly divided over the war in Iraq.
With her steely nerve and delicate manners (she has been called the "Warrior Princess"), Rice lately has reinvigorated her position with diplomatic activism, whether it's promoting Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to ease the Palestinian conflict, or encouraging six-party talks to get North Korea to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons, or trying to stop Sudan's genocide—to the point where her diplomatic party was recently roughed up by Sudan's strongmen. Rice also has close relationships with world leaders, having accompanied the president on numerous trips to Europe and Iraq. Rice has visited 31 countries and logged in over 119,000 miles by midyear. An unofficial Web site proclaims, "Condoleezza Rice for President 2008," which might be a long-shot idea. But a run by Rice for the presidency would make history in the U.S.
#2 Wu Yi
Vice Premier, minister of health
Having risen up the ranks of China's Communist Party leadership since 1962, Wu Yi, 66, became a member of the Central Committee in 2002, adding the post of minister of health in 2003. Wu Yi has been busy this year as she helps China battle disgruntled textile manufacturers, due to the lifting of World Trade Organization quotas. In a bold June speech in Hong Kong, Wu Yi called for an end to politicizing economic issues. One key move by her country should help here. Bowing to international pressure, in July China revalued the yuan by a modest 2.1%, scrapping the yuan's ten-year-old peg to the U.S. dollar and replacing it with a tightly managed float against a basket of unspecified foreign currencies, in which the dollar will likely occupy a prominent place.
#3 Yulia Tymoshenko
Former prime minister
Tymoshenko, 44, was one of the leaders of Ukraine's Orange Revolution last fall that toppled a stagnant, corrupt regime. For her support, the country's new president, Victor Yushchenko, appointed her prime minister, a post she is using forcefully to shake up Ukrainian oligarchs. Her bold moves to re-privatize industrial assets, allegedly bought on the cheap by billionaires like Rinat Akhmetov and Victor Pinchuk, have met with criticism both inside and outside Ukraine. The discontent has finally caught up with her. Tymoshenko was sacked by Yuschenko in September. But don't count her out quite yet. Tymoshenko is used to controversy, having fallen out with the sitting government in 2001, leading to her arrest and later dismissal. She will be back in parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2006.
#4 Gloria Arroyo
Arroyo, 58, is now fighting to hold on to her job as the opposition party seeks to file impeachment charges against her over a series of scandals, and her attempts to fix Manila's weak finances are falling apart, causing frustrated technocrats to bolt from her government. After donning the mantle of president in 2001, Arroyo tried to work diligently on her governing platform, which includes the eradication of poverty, which helped her win re-election in 2004. Nevertheless, despite a growing economy (in 2004, the Philippines economy grew an estimated 6.1%, up from 4.7% in 2003), Arroyo's stewardship has been burdened by a Muslim insurgency and the Philippines' designation as the second most corrupt country in Asia, according to a survey of businessmen conducted by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy. Arroyo, a former classmate of Bill Clinton's at Georgetown University and a onetime economics professor, is currently under investigation by lawmakers into allegations she cheated to win last year's election; to date Arroyo has declined to testify before her government's Congress.
#5 Margaret (Meg) Whitman
Chief executive, eBay
As ruler of the world's biggest online auction site, Whitman, 49, has successfully beaten back stiff competition from Amazon.com and Yahoo!. To do that, she has swiftly fixed any problems, has faithfully tried to weed out the fakes on her site and has posted a consistent flow of profits, making eBay the world's most valuable Internet brand. All this is to be expected. Whitman has an impressive, blue-chip résumé, with executive stints at Hasbro, the Walt Disney Co. and Bain & Co., among others. Whitman also serves on the boards of eBay as well as DreamWorks Animation, Procter & Gamble and the Gap. Despite her stock's volatility, her personal holdings are valued at $1.6 billion, making Whitman one of the richest people on the planet.
#6 Anne Mulcahy
Chief executive officer, Xerox
Having pulled Xerox out of a near-fatal slump in 2002, Mulcahy, 52, is now looking to get her company back to the top of the tech world. Her ideas: color printing and lucrative consulting services. It's a tough space to exist in, with competitors like HP, Kodak and Dell battling for pieces of the printing, copying and services businesses. To highlight how Xerox has changed, Mulcahy, who took over the top job in 2001, has yanked the company's tagline, "The Document Company," in favor of going solo with the Xerox name. A Xerox veteran, she started as a lowly field-sales rep 30 years ago. Working at Xerox is all in the family for Mulcahy. Her husband is a retired Xerox exec, and her older brother now runs the global services group. One of the few elite women to run a top public company, Mulcahy is a coveted choice on corporate boards, serving on the boards of Citigroup and Target.
—Chana R. Schoenberger
#7 Sallie Krawcheck
Chief financial officer, Citigroup
This former equity analyst, dubbed "Mrs. Clean" thanks to her frank demeanor and focus on ethics, has risen at a blistering speed to the top ranks on Wall Street. After two years heading Smith Barney, the business unit containing Citigroup's previously ailing equity research and global private-client groups, Krawcheck, 40, was tapped to be the finance chief of Citigroup. She is viewed as one of the company's next generation of leaders and is undoubtedly one of the most influential women on Wall Street. Her power may increase as upheaval in the top ranks roils her company, notably, the imminent departure of Citigroup President Robert Willumstad. But Krawcheck has been regarded as a stabilizing force. So far, the former Sanford C. Bernstein chief executive has received good grades for restoring the reputation of a division tarnished by charges of "spinning" initial public offerings and biased stock recommendations.
#8 Brenda Barnes
Chief executive officer, Sara Lee
Barnes, 51, became chief executive earlier this year after Sara Lee announced a major restructuring that included the planned sale of product lines totaling $8.2 billion in revenue. At the same time, Barnes is tackling corporate inefficiencies by encouraging shared purchasing between divisions and less bureaucracy. Barnes raised eyebrows when she left PepsiCo in 1998 to spend more time with her family. Ever since Barnes got back on the "on-ramp" into the corporate world, she has been the most oft-cited example in the business press of a woman who ditched her corporate career to spend time with her family, only to regain corporate power.
#9 Oprah Winfrey
With a net worth of more than $1 billion, an Academy Award nomination, a hit television show, a successful magazine (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a cable channel (Oxygen Media), there seems to be little else that Winfrey, 51, can do to add to her status as an international media phenomenon. According to her spokesperson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, launched in 1986, is aired in 112 countries, which includes the United States. Winfrey is also a vocal advocate for the education and well-being of women and children around the world, giving to those in need via Oprah's Angel Network and her personal charity, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.
#10 Melinda Gates
Co-founder, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The numbers are both staggering and disturbing. Millions of children die every year of diseases that are preventable. Just half of all African-American and Hispanic students graduate from high school. Thousands of homeless people sleep on the streets every night. These are the statistics that have so distressed Melinda Gates, 41, and her husband, billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, that the two started an endowment, now at $28.8 billion, to fight for better health care and education for the poor around the world, as well as for at-risk families in Washington State and Oregon. Gates is also on the boards of The Washington Post Co. and drugstore.com.