“Walker, there is no path, you make the path as you walk.”
— A. Machado
IT IS not surprising that the power dynamics which shape the world’s economies are reflected in this year’s Forbes magazine list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women available on www.forbes.com.
The top three positions are taken by politicians; Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor at No.1 followed by Hilary Clinton, US Secretary of State and Dilma Rousseff the 63-year-old President of Brazil in third place.
Another politician, Sonia Gandhi the President of India’s Congress Party made it into seventh place.
Women heading some of the world’s biggest corporations also made it into the Top 10, that is, Indra Nooyi CEO of PepsiCo in fourth; Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook in fifth and Irene Rosenfield CEO of Kraft Foods in 10th place. Melinda Gates of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation takes the sixth position ahead of US First Lady Michelle Obama (No. 8) and newly appointed managing director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde (No. 9).
The good news is that Africa has improved from having two women in the Top 100 last year to four this year.
There are two politicians, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (No. 62) and the Finance Minister of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (No. 87).
As a clear indication of its continued rise in global status South Africa has two women on the list, that is, Maria Ramos, Group CEO of Absa (No. 93) and Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita the CEO of Acerlor Mittal (No. 97).
Looking at countries, the United States dominates with 65 women out of the 100.
In case you are wondering, there is a fairly rigorous methodology used to rank these women.
They start off with a list of about 200 women who are placed in one of the following six categories: billionaires, business, celebrity/lifestyle, media, non-profits and politics.
Three metrics are used to rank these women, that is; dollars – if its politics then it’s the GDP of the country or the amount a non-profit spent in its outreach.
Media coverage of the woman is next and this includes television/radio appearances and followers on social media.
The last one is power base, that is, how much influence the woman has across the globe.
So all the women in the Top 100 also have rankings within their categories.
An interesting one is Lady Gaga who at No. 11 just missed being in the Top 10 but is actually No. 1 in the Celebrity/Lifestyle category.
She has 12 million followers on Tweeter and 36 million on Facebook and part of her US$90 million (about M630 million) in earnings for the year go into some worthy causes.
Closer to home, The Africa Report magazine also had a list of The 50 Women Shaping Africa.
While I appreciate the challenges of trying to identify women in a continent where the metrics such as those used by Forbes are not easily accessible, I still think a lot more work needs to be done by The Africa Report.
There is no ranking as such for any of the categories and because of the many countries involved, the names appear to be all over.
Maybe we need to devise our own criteria for Africa which takes into account our unique challenges and also the developmental areas that we are working on.
How about a list of Top 100 women which includes a 70-year-old grandmother looking after six orphaned grandchildren single-handedly?
Or a list which recognises the Top 100 men who are championing women’s causes?
Well if there was such a list, I am sure Canadian Stephen Lewis (www.stephenlewisfoundation.org) would be somewhere at the top.
His many awards include the Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe invested in him by King Letsie III in 2007.
One of his projects Grandmothers to Grandmothers is truly inspirational.
There are 240 groups of grandmothers in Canada who raise money (thus far US$12 million in five years) for African grandmothers affected by HIV/Aids.
Last year a conference attended by 500 grandmothers from sub-Saharan Africa was held in Swaziland and the proceedings were summarised in The Manzini Declaration.
African grandmothers and their unique circumstances — that is a topic I will explore fully in the near future.