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April 22, 2012 9:00 PM   Subscribe

The Most Powerful Women You've Never Heard Of

1. Helen Clark, Administrator, U.N. Development Program | New Zealand
2. Liu Yandong, State councilor | China
3. Lael Brainard, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs | United States
4. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance minister | Nigeria
5. Mary Schapiro, Chair, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission | United States
6. Theresa May, Home secretary | Britain
7. Fatou Bensouda, Incoming chief prosecutor, International Criminal Court | Gambia
8. Marisela Morales, Attorney general | Mexico
9. Kim Kyong Hui, Politburo member | North Korea
10. Valerie Amos, U.N. emergency relief coordinator | Britain
11. Ann Dunwoody, Commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command | United States
12. Atifete Jahjaga, President | Kosovo
13. Lubna Al-Qasimi, Minister for foreign trade | United Arab Emirates
14. Gleisi Hoffmann, Presidential chief of staff | Brazil
15. Cecilia Malmstrom, European commissioner for home affairs | Sweden
16. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee | United States
17. Peng Liyuan, Major general, People's Liberation Army | China
18. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Former finance minister | Indonesia
19. Fayza Abul Naga, Minister of international cooperation | Egypt
20. Marina Berlusconi, Chair, Fininvest | Italy
21. Josefina Vázquez Mota, Presidential candidate | Mexico
22. Valentina Matviyenko, Speaker, Federation Council | Russia
23. Viviane Reding, European commissioner for justice, fundamental rights, and citizenship | Luxembourg
24. Lindiwe Mazibuko, Party leader, Democratic Alliance | South Africa
25. Hanan Ashrawi, Member, PLO executive committee | West Bank
posted by vidur (41 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The Sex Issue", Foreign Policy? Really goin' for the class there.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:13 PM on April 22, 2012


I can assure you, I am well aware of Theresa May.
posted by Artw at 9:16 PM on April 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Kim Kyong Hui....LOL
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:20 PM on April 22, 2012


Helen Clark? Australians love her to bits. She was a massive temptation through the Howard years, beguiling us to come to NZ and live. I miss Helen Clark. She rocks.
posted by taff at 9:29 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The Sex Issue", Foreign Policy? Really goin' for the class there.

I guess you could actually read their explanation before you snark... or not.

When U.S. magazines devote special issues to sex, they are usually of the celebratory variety (see: Esquire, April 2012 edition; Cosmopolitan, every month). Suffice it to say that is not what we had in mind with Foreign Policy's first-ever Sex Issue, which is dedicated instead to the consideration of how and why sex -- in all the various meanings of the word -- matters in shaping the world's politics.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:36 PM on April 22, 2012


How is Neelie Kroes (nickname "Steely Neelie") not on this list? Got the Microsoft trial to a €497 judgement and, more crucially, the requirement for protocol documentation. Now heading up telecoms and producing capped roaming charges as well as threatening to remove Hungary's EU voting rights over human rights issues.

I must admit with a certain degree of embarrassment that I may be a bit of a fanboy about her.
posted by jaduncan at 9:41 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Interesting. There are apparently only three schools in the Americans worth mentioning. The rest of these women apparently didn't get their degrees from anywhere.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:44 PM on April 22, 2012


They think readers of Foreign Policy are unlikely to have heard of Helen Clark, Mary Schapiro, or Theresa May? Really?
posted by grouse at 9:47 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was a little surprised to see the Nigerian Finance Minister listed in there...

You shouldn't be, she was nearly made president of the world bank, and is awesome and generally highly respected.
posted by smoke at 9:47 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


They think readers of Foreign Policy are unlikely to have heard of Helen Clark, Mary Schapiro, or Theresa May? Really?

Who better to know the actual level of knowledge of their readers?
posted by jaduncan at 10:09 PM on April 22, 2012


Before looking at the article, I was thinking more along the lines of Grace O'Malley, the 16th century Irish pirate queen. One of my favorite historical figures.
posted by Scientist at 10:13 PM on April 22, 2012


Helen Clark, Administrator, U.N. Development Program | New Zealand

Also former Prime Minister of New Zealand. Just a minor blip in her career, obviously :)
posted by lollusc at 10:18 PM on April 22, 2012


Man, one day I will actually click on the link BEFORE commenting instead of right afterwards.
posted by lollusc at 10:19 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Suffice it to say that is not what we had in mind with Foreign Policy's first-ever Sex Issue, which is dedicated instead to the consideration of how and why sex -- in all the various meanings of the word -- matters in shaping the world's politics.

Yeah, that's still shitty. What, aside from linguistic archaism, does the gender currently underrepresented in politics worldwide have to do with the act of coitus?

I'm sure it gave an FP editor a virtue boner to pen the line: "Women's bodies are the world's battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out." But what, exactly, the fuck does that mean? None of the accomplished women mentioned in this list deserves to have her body brought into a consideration of her social power any more than, say, Binyamin Netanyahu's genitals are germane to a discussion of his authority. Grouping a discussion of powerful women on the world stage in with discussions of human trafficking and sex laws actually reinforces the negative stereotyping that FP claims to be criticizing.

Seriously you guys, go read Judith Butler or something before you decide to do a "sex issue."
posted by R. Schlock at 10:20 PM on April 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, I voted for Helen Clark's party a couple of times so I certainly have heard of her. She's awesome.
posted by gaspode at 10:21 PM on April 22, 2012


"Women's bodies are the world's battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out." But what, exactly, the fuck does that mean?

These guys agree: the very question is offensive.
posted by dhartung at 10:27 PM on April 22, 2012


I agree, if Viviane Reding is there then Neelie Kroes should be too.
posted by infini at 10:47 PM on April 22, 2012


What, aside from linguistic archaism, does the gender currently underrepresented in politics worldwide have to do with the act of coitus?

Get over yourself. Using sex to denote biological role is hardly archaic. Conflating this usage of sex with gender actually weakens the distinction the non-grammatical use of gender is supposed to highlight in the first place.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 11:42 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suppose their methodology was to list the highest ranking woman a country has every had, but only if she is currently in power, and to list the highest ranking Americans that don't make the American news that frequently.

Isn't the top ten list an idiotic style for this anyways? It'd make more sense doing an infographic with countries color coded by number of women who've held various top levels of power, like a less pedantic version of wikipedia's list of female heads of state.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:10 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess that the reason why FA chose Reding rather than Kroes is that the latter is no longer Commissioner for Competition. She now has the rather less powerful portfolio of ICT.
That said, regardless of her current position, Kroes is a formidable character: having gone through the boards of a number of large multinationals and been Dean of the elite Nyenrode business school, she has an impressive network.

She can also be credited for poaching Ayaan Hirsi Ali from the Dutch Labour party and into the conservative cause. Quite curiously, the two met through Hirsi Ali's then-mentor and Kroes' then-husband Bram Peper, who was mayor of Rotterdam and one of the leading lights of the Dutch Labour party at the time.

This episode is rather telling about Kroes' ruthlessness: poaching her own husband's most promising political pupil...
posted by Skeptic at 2:27 AM on April 23, 2012


rather less powerful portfolio of ICT.

But far more influential I think, in some ways, what with the open Europe initiative and the lowering of roaming costs whatnot...

on a side note is the difference between power and influence...
posted by infini at 3:13 AM on April 23, 2012


They think readers of Foreign Policy are unlikely to have heard of Helen Clark, Mary Schapiro, or Theresa May? Really?

Reading The Economist makes me feel really quite stupid, and even I have heard of Cecilia Malmstrom and Helen Clark. (I'm British so Theresa May doesn't count. I suppose these days it's a blessing that someone hasn't stuck a Middleton on this list.) I think this list says as much about how much foreign politics is covered in the US media as it does the fact that women in politics don't get enough of a spotlight shone upon them.
posted by mippy at 3:49 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the States at least for the current political moment, powerful women do better under the radar, because the minute they attract notoriety enough to interest the yahoos, they get people opining on their hotness/lack thereof, perceived lesbianism, desire to Abort All the Babies, etc. Which they then have to deal with in terms of PR/attacks from rightwing "think" tanks, which distracts them from their actual jobs.
posted by emjaybee at 4:12 AM on April 23, 2012


Helen Clark? Australians love her to bits. She was a massive temptation through the Howard years, beguiling us to come to NZ and live. I miss Helen Clark. She rocks.

She was pretty good. Not perfect by any means (see NZ special forces in Afghanistan, Ahmed Zaoui), but pretty good. Of course, plenty of Kiwis hated her and wanted to move/did move to Australia (due to the better economy - and of course it was Clark and Cullen's fault that there weren't huge gold deposits in NZ).

I suppose their methodology was to list the highest ranking woman a country has every had, but only if she is currently in power, and to list the highest ranking Americans that don't make the American news that frequently.

Maybe but not quite - Helen Clark is no longer New Zealand Prime Minister, and they list another former Minister as well. (They don't list Icelandic PM Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, either; though maybe their readers have heard of her?).

I got 3/25, pretty poor. Good article.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:01 AM on April 23, 2012


This list is kind of ridiculous. It completely ignores corporate power. Is someone on the PLO actually more powerful then the CEO of pepsi cola or the CEO of IBM? Now obviously lots of people have heard of Meg Whitman - and people have been hearing about Hillary Rosen due to her "gaffe" lately but few people realize she's a high power lobbyist - who worked for BP during the oil spill (and I'm sure made a ton of money). She was put on a list of the "Ten most powerful lesbians"

I mean come on the PLO hardly has any power at all. You could easily find random countries who have women in positions of power, almost any of them would probably have more power then Hanan Ashrawi. I mean Brazil has a female President - and that's a huge country and she's the most powerful person. Sure, its' true I've heard of her... but I doubt that many people have heard of her outside of brazil, compared to Hillary Clinton of Meg Whitman or whatever.
You shouldn't be, she was nearly made president of the world bank, and is awesome and generally highly respected.
I've heard that Nigerian banks are considered some of the most reliable and well regulated in Africa, and some Africans prefer using Nigerian banks over banks in their own countries. This was from a metafilter comment (from someone who had spent time in Kenya), though, so I have no idea how accurate it is.
posted by delmoi at 5:46 AM on April 23, 2012


Then again I suppose that readers of the Economist might be expected to know the average fortune 500 CEO. "You've never heard of" is a pretty ambiguous metric.
posted by delmoi at 5:49 AM on April 23, 2012


I love how someone we've never heard of has also somehow burst into the public consciousness.
posted by edd at 6:13 AM on April 23, 2012


Given the recent hullabaloo in the Indian cabinet, maybe Mamata Banerjee should have figured in the list.
posted by Gyan at 6:27 AM on April 23, 2012


What about the former President of Indonesia, Megawati?

She is not well known in the West, but she was in office from 23 July 2001 to 20 October 2004. That's 19,632 Megawatihours!

Who's more powerful than that?
 
posted by Herodios at 7:44 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can assure you, I am well aware of Theresa May.

Artw, and everyone else, listen up. This is important!!!

The phrase "... You've Never Heard Of" is not meant literally. It is literary shorthand for "... That Don't Get Much Press/Attention/Credit."

The fact that you have actually heard of list item #17 is not a refutation of the article.

That is all.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:45 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, all criticisms in the comments aside, I skipped right to the bios and simply found this list inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:50 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that you have actually heard of list item #17 is not a refutation of the article.

Maybe not, but I do suspect most of them of being like Teresa May, i.e. people you would absolutely have heard of it you were at all following politics in that area.
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on April 23, 2012


Kim Kyong Hui....LOL

Go on...
posted by Navelgazer at 9:49 AM on April 23, 2012


ferdinand.bardamu: "Get over yourself. Using sex to denote biological role is hardly archaic."

Take a look at this banner again. What do you think the editors meant to connote with big red letters splayed across a magazine layout? The description linked above only proves that they were conscious of what sex means when it's put on a magazine cover, and chose to exploit that meaning anyway. Which, you know, is funny and clever when it's a MAD Magazine parody, but just seems cheap and exploitive from supposedly serious fare.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:06 AM on April 23, 2012


This time next year, we better see Leslie Knope on there as well.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:35 AM on April 23, 2012


Maybe not, but I do suspect most of them of being like Teresa May, i.e. people you would absolutely have heard of it you were at all following politics in that area.

Well, yes, but FP is a semi-serious (I'd say about "Newsweek-plus") magazine with a U.S. audience that is generally not following politics in that area. If you are, chances are you're part of the foreign in Foreign Policy.
posted by psoas at 10:42 AM on April 23, 2012


Everyone's part of the foreign in someones foreign policy. If they wanted to make that point then the whole "women" bit seems a bit redundant.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on April 23, 2012


I'm a foreign woman, I'm here to help. What seems to be the problem?
posted by infini at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone's part of the foreign in someones foreign policy. If they wanted to make that point then the whole "women" bit seems a bit redundant.

Um, not sure how you got from "US-centric audience" to "mentioning noteworthy women is redundant", Artw.

The article is a look at how women are succeeding in some political positions, worldwide; a celebration of progress, and at the same time a commentary on how surprising it still is that women are able to achieve this at all, given the gender-equity climates in some cultures.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:25 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a foreign woman, I'm here to help. What seems to be the problem?

We need better governance, infini. Here, take this codex of law, and this blackberry, and you'll need a cape - no, wait, no capes! - and here's a bulletproof vest.

NOW GET BUSY!
posted by IAmBroom at 12:27 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously you guys, go read Judith Butler or something before you decide to do a "sex issue."

Or, alternately, any number of other feminist writers can make the same points in ways that are actually, you know, readable.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2012


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