Friday, September 01, 2006

Seven Black Women Among Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women

Last year’s listing of the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women celebrated a total of four black women. Of those four, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey (Chairman, Harpo), and Prime Minister Luisa Diogo (Mozambique) have returned to the 2006 list. They are joined this year by four more powerful black women: Renetta McCann (Chief Executive, Starcom MediaVest Group), President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Minister of Foreign Affairs (Nigeria), and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (Jamaica).

While there are countless powerful black women who are deserving of our praise, these women in particular have been truly exceptional. Whether we agree with their politics or not, one thing is certain: these sisters have persevered in a world where the chips were stacked against them. Let us hope that they will continue to use their power to lead with wisdom, character, compassion, and fearlessness; our younger generations of beautiful black sisters depend on it.

#2 Condoleezza Rice

As his ratings collapse largely due to the progress of the Iraq war, U.S. President George W. Bush increasingly seeks counsel from one of his closest advisers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 51. A pragmatist now quite familiar with the halls of power, Rice is America's top diplomat and has demonstrated growing influence over U.S. foreign policy in Bush's second term, defending Bush's policies around the globe. A foreign policy realist who favors face-to-face negotiations, Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut in an attempt to hammer out a ceasefire agreement in the recent fighting in the Middle East, and she is working to defang Iran and North Korea, both intent on stepping up their nuclear programs. In fact, Rice is an inveterate globetrotter, racking up nearly a half million miles so far this year visiting dozens of countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Rice's message is one of "transformational democracy," a political philosophy she laid out in a speech at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in January. It states that the U.S. will "work with our many partners around the world to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people." Rice won rave reviews recently for her piano performance at Asian security talks in Kuala Lumpur. She has hinted that her next career move may be in music, rather than a rumored presidential run. —Tatiana Serafin

#14 Oprah Winfrey

With an estimated net worth of over $1 billion, an Academy Award nomination, an Emmy-winning hit television show, successful magazines ( O, The Oprah Magazine, along with O at Home) and a cable channel (Oxygen Media, which she co-founded), Winfrey is an international media phenomenon. Earlier this year, Winfrey expanded her empire even further when she announced an exclusive three-year agreement with XM Satellite Radio to launch the Oprah & Friends channel. Winfrey is also a vocal advocate for the education and protection of women and children around the world; she promotes giving to those in need via Oprah's Angel Network and her personal charity, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation. Last year, The Oprah Winfrey Show launched an initiative to highlight the stories of victims and survivors of child predator crimes, posting a watch list of fugitives on Oprah.com. —Suzanne Hoppough

#27 Renetta McCann

Starcom MediaVest is the media communications agency for those who abide by the principle that image is everything. McCann heads up the U.S. and Canadian operations for one of the world's top five media agencies. Her company buys about $18 billion a year in media time for companies like Coca-Cola and General Motors. McCann is also on the board of Publicis Groupe Media, which directs the media networks of Publicis Groupe, the owner of Starcom. A recipient of numerous media and industry honors, McCann is also a board member of Chicago United, which aims to improve race relations and business opportunities for minorities. —Erika Brown

#51 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Sirleaf, Africa's first female president, beat popular soccer player George Weah to the post last November. That was the easy part. A longtime politician, Sirleaf, 66, now has to contend with putting her country back together after a 14-year civil war that left the capital Monrovia in near ruins. She must also deal with government mismanagement that has all but destroyed Liberia's economy. A first step to healing wounds will be the trial of the former president and ex-warlord Charles Taylor; he has already been transferred to The Hague on war crimes charges. Sanctions against timber exports—exports used by the previous government to fund its war campaigns—have been lifted. Sirleaf has also traveled to the U.S. to foster trade in other sectors. But some constituents are getting impatient, calling for faster reform. No doubt the "Iron Lady," as Sirleaf is known, will meet their challenge. —Tatiana Serafin

#62 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

In a cabinet reshuffle in June, Okonjo-Iweala moved from her post as finance minister to foreign affairs, but nonetheless remains in charge of the economic team of the oil-rich nation, the most populous in Africa. Okonjo-Iweala, 52, a former World Bank official and economist, is known for her prudent debt management and calls for fiscal discipline. Okonjo-Iweala led the negotiations that resulted in cancellation of nearly two-thirds, $18 billion, of Nigeria's $30 billion Paris Club debt, the second largest debt cancellation in the Paris Club's 30-year history. Okonjo-Iweala is now supervising the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the southeastern Bakassi Peninsula and the transfer of the disputed territory to Cameroon. Nigeria is now abuzz with talk of her anticipated presidential run in the 2007 general election. —Tatiana Serafin

#83 Luisa Diogo

Diogo, 48, has become increasingly vocal in taking rich nations to task for not following up on aid, trade and debt relief promises to Africa. "It is no country's destiny to be poor," she has said. Diogo may be positioning herself for a run for her country's presidency in 2009. In the interim, she is dealing with ruffled feathers over a controversy involving property acquired by her son, which was subsequently rented to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for a sweet $3,000 a month. A local businessman, Faruk Gadit, says the building belonged to him and should never have been sold by the state. Despite the dustup, Diogo has won kudos for helping turn around one of the world's poorest countries. —Tatiana Serafin

#89 Portia Simpson Miller

This Caribbean nation's first female prime minister was elected in February as the candidate of the People's National Party. A longtime government official who was born into rural poverty, Simpson Miller formerly oversaw tourism, labor, community development, local government and social security affairs for the island. As sports minister, she oversaw Jamaica's first foray into soccer's World Cup, and as tourism minister, she dealt with a decimated travel industry following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In her inaugural address, Simpson Miller vowed to fight corruption, support the poor with economic programs and ensure individual liberty. The popular prime minister now must lead her party to victory in the upcoming parliamentary elections next year. —Chana Schoenberger

4 comments:

Anonymous said...
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somuchsoul said...

Black women are doing big things in the world and the number of sisters making it into the Forbes 100 list will only increase year-on-year. Our time has come!

Anonymous said...

Well done PortiaSimpson Miller, You made us Jamaicans feel so proud.

Anonymous said...

wow this is a good way of bigging up our strong and powerful black women