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The 2010 Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women list: Empowering or embarrassing?

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Laura Donovan
Contributor

Nearly a quarter of those on Forbes magazine’s newly release list of the World’s Most Powerful Women are celebrities, fashion designers, pop stars, television anchors, and other entertainment figures – a big difference from last year’s list.

According to Forbes, the rankings have been redefined, with criteria for the list “based less on traditional titles and roles and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship.” The 2009 list had significantly fewer celebrities and cultural icons, with Oprah Winfrey the only person linked to the entertainment world.

Indeed, Oprah is a good barometer of just how much the list has been altered by the new criteria. Last year, Oprah was listed as the 41st most powerful woman. This year, she shot up to third place.

While the 2009 Forbes list included mainly CEOs, presidents, prime ministers, senior vice presidents, and other political figures, this year’s list includes many more cultural figures easily recognized by the public at large.

While first lady Michelle Obama tops the list, Lady Gaga takes the 7th spot, just two spots below Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several places above Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin, and Queen Elizabeth II, to name a few.  Other celebrities on this year’s list include model Gisele Bundchen, actress Sarah Jessica Parker, culinary guru Rachael Ray, singer Madonna, designer Vera Wang, and “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer.

Karin Agness, founder and president of the Network of Enlightened Women, expressed mixed views on the 2010 ranking.

“If these women are really the most powerful in the world, this list really shows that cultural figures matter and are shaping the [political] debate. It might indicate a problem if people prefer to hear from entertainment figures than business women,” Agness told The Daily Caller. “It’s interesting that some presidents of nations are ranked below these figures, and it’s hard to imagine that the president of a nation is less powerful than an American singer.”

Agness continued by noting that while it is true that celebrity can lead to power, she warned that misuse of that power can harm the very celebrity that helped achieve it.

“I think celebrity status can often lead to power, but as we’re seeing with President Obama, if power is not used wisely, popularity can quickly drop,” Agness said.

Charlotte Hays, senior fellow of the Independent Women’s Forum, described the list as a visibility ranking rather than a power ranking.

“This seems to me like a list of women who are visible, not powerful,” Hays said. “Nancy Pelosi is ranked the 11th most powerful woman, and she’s arguably been the most powerful woman for many years, having changed the way healthcare has gone. So why is she only at 11?”

Hays believes the ranking was mainly based on the amount of publicity the women have received.

“There are people on that list who have real power, but they’re all ranked very low on the list,” she said. “They’re [Forbes] probably just trying to have clean fun.”

  • RupertPupkin

    Any list with Lady Gaga as one of the most powerful women in the world is a complete joke. 

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  • jonavark

    Embarrassing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jasmine-Clark/1785223171 Jasmine Clark

    i love how sarah palin is listed as “political maverick” as if that is her official title, lol!!
    other than that, i agree with you all, this list is stupid…

  • ladylove

    like this comes as a surprise.

    what a joke.

  • Momma M

    E M B A R R A S S I N G

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  • Newly Minted

    Leftist love credentials. They love awards. They love top ten lists. They give awards to others in the hopes that someday they’ll get the same award.

    Why? Awards are an attempt to cover up the fact that what they say doesn’t make sense. When challenged, they always fall back to referring to their source as “the award winning…”

    One sure way to get a leftist award is to trash a conservative. See that female homunculus Katie Couric (Pulitizer?) or that ridiculous Mark Twain award given to Tina Fey. The Mark Twain award is always given to older people for a life time achievement. Unless you try to destroy a strong conservative woman. Then you get one.

    We conservatives have got to get past this culture of awards. Awards are part of the Washington/NYC/LA cocktail party circuit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jasmine-Clark/1785223171 Jasmine Clark

      so glad you said this. you’re 100% right. it’s all just for show. so annoying.

  • monkeybird

    You headline said it all – embarrassing. A disgusting list of supposed role models. Unbelievable garbage!