Still Defining “Power” Like a Man: On Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women 2012


Money. Influence. Impact. These are the metrics that oriented Forbes’ choices of the “Ranking The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2012.”

According to Oxford Dictionary, power is the ability to “act in a particular way,” and “influence the behavior of others.” Therefore, it is not surprising that most of the women on the list were politicians, high ranking business women and celebrities. It’s also not surprising that Forbes decided to choose money, media, and impact to measure the most widely used definition of power.

I must admit, I think a list like this might be useful in our world as it holds women up to the same “standards” as men. At the same time, I get this strange feeling that we’re missing an essential part of the picture: What really makes a woman “powerful”?

I see a woman’s power in her ability to empathize and harness her energy effectively. I believe a woman’s power has less to do with external action and influence than her ability for inner transformation.

Interestingly, the definition for power from a physics perspective is: “energy that is produced by mechanical, electrical, or other means and used to operate a device.” Upon reading this definition, I immediately thought about the time I spent in rural villages in India where the women worked relentlessly from 5am until 11pm to milk the buffalo, tend the crops, take care of the children, cook for the family…It was an endless well of energy that operated the “device” of her body, her family, her entire community.

Not to mention that in ancient native cultures, a woman’s power was related to her miraculous ability to give birth. But I have a feeling that power wasn’t on Forbes’ radar (and I’m not sure many feminists would be happy if it were).

On more concrete terms, what about a woman’s material generosity – her ability to spread wealth in her community? Isn’t this essentially the idea behind the successful social media campaign “The Girl Effect”? Investing in women is particularly smart because she is more likely to invest it in her family and community.

Although most of the women on the Forbes list engage in philanthropic activities (most notably, Melinda Gates who ranked #4), “money earned” was included as a metric, while “money donated” or “money circulated” were not. Impact was defined as: “the extent of their reach across industries, cultures and countries, the number of spheres of influence and people they affect and how actively they wield that power.”

For many years, we argued that power was not only in realm of man – but woman too. But I think we are still defining a woman’s power the way a man might define his own power. I realize this statement may be controversial; please keep in mind that it is my opinion. I think we need to find out what makes a us really powerful from our perspective on our own power.

These were thoughts I wanted to entertain with you all. Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts.



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