Friday, May 29, 2015

What We're Reading: Between the Lines

If you were stranded on a deserted island with three other people, who would you want those three people to be? On Tuesday, Forbes released its 12th annual list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.  For us at the MWPC, the list is packed with names of women with whom we’d gladly share our hammocks.  Loretta Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres, and Drew Gilpin Faust: if you’re reading this, you have standing invitations to our bonfire—Location TBD, BYO coconut milk.  Lists like these are fun, but they can also be unexpectedly informative.  A closer inspection of this list yields a trove of data, revealing exciting trends in where, how, and when women are asserting their influence.  In addition to rank, name, and photo, Forbes also provides the reader with country, professional category, age, and links to more substantive profiles.  Reading between the lines, these are some of the statistics we found most exciting:
  • 58 of the 100 women ranked are from the United States.
  • 7 of the top 10 women ranked are from the United States.
  • 4 of the top 5 women ranked are from the United States.
  • The number of women who have “Politics” listed as their professional category: 22.  Of these 22 women, 7 are United States politicians, including the widely acknowledged favorite to take the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, poised at #2, and First Lady Michelle Obama, whose legacy already includes an unapologetic advocacy for girls’ education, on the global stage at #10.
  • The number of women who have “Technology” listed as their professional category: 18.  Of these 18 women, a whopping 15 are from the United States, including Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of New York Times Bestseller Lean In.
  • The number of women who have “Business” listed as their professional category:  13.  Of these 13 women, 8 are from the United States, including Chairperson and CEO of Pepsi Co. Indra Nooyi, sitting at #15. 

The United States is also well represented in Philanthropy, Media, Celebrity, and Finance. 

The list is, of course, subject to debate.  But while we may squabble over conflicting definitions of “power”, relevant criteria, and even the inherent value of a ranking system, one cannot deny the awe-inspiring contributions these women have made to their respective fields, and the world as a whole. 

Also worth noting is that if we, as a nation, were to be graded on our acceptance of women into diverse professional leadership roles based on this list alone, comparatively, it appears we would do quite well.  However, to draw that conclusion would be a mistake.  Women continue to be underrepresented on the US political stage, among other leadership positions. The following statistics are taken from the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics:
  • 7—the current number of female federal executives (cabinet and cabinet-level positions).  
  • 3—the current number of female Supreme Court justices.
  • At present, Women hold a mere 104 seats out of a total of 535 seats in Congress.  That’s only 19.4%.
  • Out of the 318 statewide executive positions (incl. governors, lt. governors, and other statewide elected officials) only 78 are women.

These statistics become more alarming when we look at the representation of women of color.  We have a long way to go, but that’s why we’re here! In the meantime, congratulations to all of the women who made the list, and also those unrecognized, who continue to inspire women and girls everywhere.