Special Report

The Most Influential Women of the 21st Century

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Hillary Clinton
> Area of influence: Politics
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 5,277,524

Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be a major political party’s candidate for president of the United States. Clinton has been a major presence in public life since she became first lady in 1993. She has served as a senator from New York and as secretary of state under Obama. When Michelle Obama was voted America’s most admired woman in a Gallup poll last year, she ousted Hillary Clinton from the No. 1 spot for the first time in 17 years.

Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Janet Yellen
> Area of influence: Finance
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 1,061,532

As the first female head of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, Janet Yellen was one of the most powerful women in the world. Yellen projected stability and a calm demeanor as she began a series of interest-rate hikes that threatened to shake up the equity markets. Before Yellen, the Fed has been lowering rates or leaving them unchanged since the financial crisis in 2008.

Source: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
> Area of influence: Law
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 8,747,217

At 85, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest Supreme Court Justice and has also become a pop-culture figure. She is the subject of the movie “On the Basis of Sex” about her struggle for gender equality as a young lawyer. CNN made a documentary on her titled “RBG.” Comedian Kate McKinnon does a recurring impression of her on “Saturday Night Live.” As much as she is adored in liberal circles, her tenacity in the face of health and injury challenges — including battling cancer and breaking ribs in an accident — have won her respect across the political spectrum.

Source: Paul Morigi / Getty Images

Mary Barra
> Area of influence: Business
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 545,111

Mary Barra was the first female head of a major automobile company. She took the reins of GM in early 2014, just as the company was dealing with a massive recall that involved defective ignition switches. Her crisis-management skills brought GM through that troubled period. Since then, Barra has deftly pulled the company out of Russia and withdrew Chevy from Europe. Under her, General Motors has shifted into ride-sharing services by investing in Lyft, and launched the electric vehicle the Chevy Bolt. For her vision and ability to handle crises, Automotive News’ 2018 Industry Leader of the Year.

Source: Paul Morigi / Getty Images

Virginia Rometty
> Area of influence: Business
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 510,484

Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM since 2012, is credited with restoring Big Blue to its glory days. The charismatic Rometty, who joined the technology giant as a systems engineer in 1981, has stressed the importance of keeping women in the workforce. She serves on many boards advocating for women in leadership roles, including Women in Technology Council, Women’s Executive Council, and Women’s Leadership Council.

Source: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Serena Williams
> Area of influence: Sports
> Wikipedia pageviews (2 yr.): 9,390,041

It would be pretty hard to argue against Serena Williams as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. Williams has won 23 Grand Slam titles — Wimbledon, French Open, U.S. Open, the Australian Open — the most in the Open era. Along the way, the African American tennis star has battled gender and racial bias, and her own doubts about motherhood.