Germany's Merkel again most powerful woman: Forbes

NEW YORK Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:14pm EDT

German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Angela Merkel speaks on her party's election program in Berlin August 17, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party Angela Merkel speaks on her party's election program in Berlin August 17, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Peter

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Michelle Obama is among the world's 100 most powerful women in a list topped for the fourth consecutive year by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a Forbes ranking released on Wednesday.

Obama debuted at No. 40, coming in ahead of talk show host Oprah Winfrey at 41 and Britain's Queen Elizabeth at 42.

Sheila Bair, chair of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures bank deposits, retained the No. 2 spot after debuting on the Forbes list last year. She has gained increased prominence as the U.S. recession grinds on.

The chief executives of PepsiCo, Anglo American, Temasek, Kraft Foods, WellPoint, and Areva all remain in the Forbes top 10.

The list is based on factors such as economic impact, media reach and career accomplishments.

The chief executives of Dupont and Sunoco are new to the top 10, replacing the Xerox Corp. chair, who dropped to No. 15, and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who fell off the list after leaving office in January.

Rice's successor, Hillary Clinton, came in at No. 36, dropping from No. 28 last year when her presidential bid made her the woman with the highest public profile on the list.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, retained No. 35.

"Women in power are rising to leadership positions in business, government and philanthropy by making daring and unconventional moves," Forbes said. "Gone are the days of women feeling they must stick with one employer and patiently wait for promotions."

"Highly ambitious women ... are moving across companies and industries, making big leaps with each change, and repositioning themselves for opportunities that allow them to gain a breadth of experience," the business magazine said.

Merkel, 55, became the first female chancellor of Germany in 2005 and is widely expected to retain power in a federal election on September 27.

Obama, 45, has won fans for her down-to-earth personality, her support of causes including healthy eating and the arts, and her fashion sense that has seen her grace several best-dressed lists.

Other U.S. newcomers include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at No. 54, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at No. 56, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano at No. 51 and Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Schapiro at No. 55.

Also new to the list are Prime Minister of Bangladesh Hasina Wajed at No. 78, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay at No. 63 and Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir at No. 74.

The full list can be seen at www.forbes.com/women.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mark Egan and Xavier Briand)

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