As populist, right-wing political movements spring up around the world, many have labeled Germany's Chancellor as the last bastion of Western liberal power. Merkel, who faces a challenging reelection bid in 2017, has been tasked with maintaining a united European front in the wake of Brexit, balancing growing Russian influence on the continent and managing more than 1 million migrants who have entered Germany in recent years. This is hardly the first difficult political climate Merkel has been dealt. She guided her country through a recession with stimulus packages and subsidies for companies that cut hours for workers, and Germany entered 2016 with a budget surplus of 12.1 billion euros ($13.1 billion) and an AAA rating from credit rating agencies. She has also used her power against ISIS, breaking the post-Nazi-era taboo of direct involvement in military actions by sending arms to Kurdish fighters.
(Presidential candidate, United States)
If Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, it will be a historic milestone in a career already defined by firsts. She is the first and only First Lady to run for public office, the first woman to be elected senator from New York, and the first woman to advance this far in a presidential race. Clinton continues to hold the lead in a prolonged primary, despite "emailgate" revelations that she used her private email address and server while at the State Department. Those findings were confirmed in a report issued by the Inspector General in May, providing new fodder for her opponents, both Democratic and Republican. Yet she remains the presumptive Democratic contender in the elections this fall, and her unflappable and tenacious pursuit of the country's highest office keeps her at spot No. 2 on this year's list, with a clear shot at number one if she wins the nation's vote.
(Chair, Federal Reserve, United States))
Janet Yellen, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, has been reluctant to raise domestic interest rates. Since beginning her tenure in 2014, she has hiked rates just twice, including a tweak in December 2016. Performing neither as wizard nor innovator, Yellen instead asserts her power by way of plain sentences and easy logic, making it easy to forget that the Yale- and Brown-educated economist is perhaps the world's top market-mover. As the first female Fed chair, she holds unmatched influence over American monetary policy.
(Cochair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Melinda Gates has cemented her dominance in philanthropy and global development to the tune of $4.2 billion in giving in 2015 and more than $36.7 billion in grant payments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 2000. Her work has inspired other big donors and has changed way funders think about effective philanthropy: highly targeted campaigns coupled with data-driven monitoring and global collaboration. As the woman with her name on the door, Gates decides the direction of the organization and reviews the results. Much of her attention is now focused on championing investments in women and girls around the world. This includes a 2016 initiative, announced at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen in May, that will funnel $80 million into collecting key data on women in developing countries over the next three years -- yielding the information Gates believes is needed to inform efforts to achieve gender equality.
(CEO, General Motors)
The last year was a good one for General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who marked her two-year anniversary as CEO with a new appointment to chairman of GM. The promotion came as no surprise: Barra, a 36-year veteran of the company, has driven strong domestic sales, steady performance in Europe and new growth in China's SUV and luxury markets. It's a noticeable comeback for the automaker, which only two years ago was contending with the recall of 30 million cars. Next on Barra's agenda: capitalizing on this GM's strong performance with innovations including the release of GM's latest electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which began sales in California and Oregon in December, and will roll out to selected dealers throughout the rest of the U.S. in 2017.
According to forbes.com