Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was a moment of truth for Europe. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, responded to the challenge.
Seven days after the start of the war, Von der Leyen announced the introduction of three economic sanctions against Russia – a ban on transactions with the Russian central bank, the closure of airspace for Russian aircraft and a ban on media agencies owned by the Kremlin.
“Protecting our freedom comes at a price,” von der Leyen said. “That is our principle: freedom is priceless”.
Because of the leadership she showed during the war in Ukraine as well as during the coronavirus pandemic, Von der Leyen took first place on Forbes’ 19th annual list of the world’s most powerful women. Von der Leyen’s influence is unique—no one else on this list designs policies on behalf of 450 million people—but her commitment to a free and democratic society is not unique. Von der Leyen is just one name in the biggest story of 2022: the story of women steadfastly defending democracy.
Last year, American women suffered the biggest loss of their rights in decades: the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court limited a woman’s right to an abortion. In response to that decision, women voters led turnout in the U.S. midterm elections for Congress. In Iran, thousands of women took to the streets to demonstrate against theocratic laws that treated them as second-class citizens.
On this year’s list, female protesters are represented by Jina “Mahsa” Amini at 100th place, whose death last September sparked an unprecedented women’s revolution. The rest of the women on the list come from traditional power sectors – 39 of them are CEOs, 10 are powerful politicians, and there are 11 billionaires on the list with a combined fortune of $115 billion.
The list was compiled based on four main criteria: money, media, sphere of influence and impression. For female politicians, the population and GDP of the countries they leadwere taken into account, as well as the mentions in the media. The result is a list of women fighting against the status quo.
Here are some of the most powerful women in the world for 2022.
Ursula von der Leyen
President of the European Commission
Ursula von der Leyen became the President of the European Commission in July 2019. She is the first woman in that position, and before that she was the German Minister of Defense during the term of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In 2020, von der Leyen led legislation on a 750-billion-euro aid package to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and in 2022 she became one of Ukraine’s staunchest Western allies.
President of the European Central Bank
On November 1st, 2019, Lagarde became the first woman in history to head the European Central Bank. Lagarde, as the person responsible for European monetary policy, must pass a key test: to ensure that the coronavirus pandemic does not introduce additional chaos into the eurozone. From 2011 to mid-2019, she was the head of the International Monetary Fund, whose task is to ensure the stability of the global monetary system. She was the first woman in that position.
Analyzing the financial crisis of 2008, Lagarde emphasized the role of “groupthink” – that is, the insistence on the same opinions – in an industry dominated by men, and she called for gender reform.
Vice President of the U.S.
On January 20th, 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first black woman, and the first South Asian American to hold the position of Vice President of the U.S. Harris has broken stereotypes before: in 2016, she became the first Indian-American elected to the U.S. Senate, and in 2010, she became the first black woman and the first woman to hold the position of state attorney general of the state of California.
Harris was born in California, in the city of Oakland. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. from India, and her father from Jamaica. She studied at Howard University and thus became the first alumna of a university attended mostly by African Americans to hold the position of vice president of the U.S., Forbes writes.