Special Report

The Most Influential Women of the 21st Century

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Ellen DeGeneres
> Area of influence: Entertainment
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 9,651,548

According to a poll by Variety magazine in 2015, Ellen DeGeneres did more to influence American attitudes in regard to gay rights than any other celebrity. The talk show host came out as gay in 1997 — and so did her character on her sitcom “Ellen.”

Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Ai-jen Poo
> Area of influence: Activism
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 47,913

Ai-jen Poo was a driving force behind the worker-led movement Domestic Workers United in New York City. The organization’s campaigns led to better conditions for domestic workers, raised awareness of economic contributions that domestic workers provide, helped get legal representation for abused workers, and crafted a framework of legal standards for workers.

Source: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Malala Yousafzai
> Area of influence: Women’s rights
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 4,968,380

Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for women’s education rights, won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17, making her the youngest recipient ever. The attempt on her life when she was on her way to school led to her native Pakistan to pass that nation’s first Right to Education Bill.

Source: Paras Griffin / Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey
> Area of influence: Entertainment/activism
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 7,904,943

Oprah Winfrey, the first African-American female billionaire, has had a significant influence on American culture since her time as a television talk show host. She played a key role in the emergence of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate and continues to be politically active. An indication of her influence? The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is holding an exhibition titled “Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture.”

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Nancy Pelosi
> Area of influence: Politics
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 7,360,538

After the Democratic Party regained control of the House of Representatives in January, Nancy Pelosi returned as Speaker of the House. Pelosi, who has been in Congress since 1987, was one of the prime movers behind the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 during her first tenure as Speaker of the House.