When the list of the Most Powerful Woman in The World was released last week, there were a couple of Things That Made Me Go Hmmmmm. The first is that Westpac CEO Gail Kelly (#8) is more powerful than Beyonce (#9). And also? Well, I love it when I have a thought and before I get around to writing a post, a writer I admire emails me to say “you know what?” and has that same thought and wants to write about it for Mamamia. Only in a more articulate way than me. So it was on Friday when News Ltd columnist Sarrah Le Marquand and I shared a moment about Michelle Obama.
Who we both think is fab. HOWEVER.
“Would you call Tim Mathieson the most powerful man in Australia? Probably not. And if you did, there would be a queue of male politicians, CEOs and media moguls lining up to disagree. Not to mention the captain of the Australian cricket team. And maybe Hugh Jackman.For while being romantically involved with Julia Gillard might grant him residence in The Lodge, and free entry to a string of state dinners, Mathieson is not perceived as powerful just because he happens to be the Prime Minister’s other half.
But that might be because he doesn’t look as good in a sleeveless dress as Michelle Obama, who has just been declared the most powerful woman in the world. That’s right, not just America – according to Forbes magazine she is the most influential and successful woman on the entire planet.
Now I have nothing against Mrs Obama. A fiercely intelligent Harvard-educated lawyer, she has handled the transition to the White House with poise and is clearly a devoted mother to her two daughters.But the most powerful woman in the world? Shouldn’t you have to, um, actually do stuff to earn that title?
Topping best dressed lists, being admired for toned biceps and having great taste in husbands isn’t nearly enough.
In taking out Forbes’ top honours, she was ranked above the likes of Kraft Foods chief executive Irene Rosenfeld, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and our own Gail Kelly, head of Westpac.
And what about the woman-who-might-have-been-president, Hillary Clinton? Despite being given the not insignificant challenge of brokering peace in the Middle East as US Secretary of State, she only managed to come in fifth.
If anyone knows a thing or two about being First Lady, it’s Clinton, who redefined the role like never before. Not content with smiley serenely by her husband’s side or emulating Jacqueline Kennedy-esque fashion status, she took an active approach to shaping public policy.
Yet once Bill’s tenure as president had expired she set about pursuing political office of her own. Because for all the privileges being First Lady had afforded her, she knew it was essentially a decorative position. That while there was a time being married to a leader was the closest to a political career that a woman could aspire, she wanted the job for herself.
Whatever power and influence Michelle Obama currently wields, she owes it all to her husband. They might see their marriage as a partnership, but only one of them is Commander in Chief. And it’s not her.
Hopefully next year Forbes will restrict its most powerful title to women forging their own way in competitive fields such as business and politics. Women who happen to be married to the most powerful men in the world belong on a different list entirely.
So, do you think it’s right to be deemed ‘powerful’ because of who you’re married to rather than your own job?
#1. Michelle Obama, First Lady
You can follow Sarah’s blog on The Daily Telegraph here
So what do you think? Does Michelle Obama deserve the title? Who do you think is the most powerful woman in the world?