At number 1, for the fourth consecutive year, is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, who remains in the No. 2 spot, has presided over the orderly takeover of 77 banks so far this year. Chief Executives Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, (No. 3), Cynthia Carroll of Anglo American, (No. 4) and Irene Rosenfeld of Kraft Foods (No. 6) rank among the world's most powerful businesswomen and are tasked with steering their companies through unusually challenging times. Queen Rania of Jordan, at number 76, is the perhaps the most listened-to woman in the Middle East.
Trying to come up with a list of the world's most powerful women begs the question of what "power" is all about. Forbes asked nine female leaders in big business and influential nonprofits to share their reflections on "power." Here's what they had to say:
- "Confidence is Power" - Lauie Ann Goldman, CEO, Spanx
- "Power is the ability to create change in the world" - Tensie Whelan, Executive Director, Rainforest Alliance
- Power is not being tied to any person or any thing. "If a deal or a relationship does not make sense, I can walk." - Lynn Tilton, CEO, Patriarch Partners
- "Power is one's ability to inspire positive change…to impact the global village." - Tina Sharkey, Chariman and Global President, BabyCenter
- Power is confronting "the demons that prevent us as human beings from living up to our full potential." - Cheryl Dorsey, MD, President, Echoing Green
- Power is about having choices. - Karen Wickre, Senior Manager of Global Communications & Public Affairs, Google.
- "I feel powerful by being able to influence others in a positive way." - Missy Robbins, Executive Chef, A Voce Madison and A Voce Columbus
- "I do consider myself to be a powerful woman…having [a] person believe in you is very empowering." - Deanna Kangas, CEO of Stila Cosmetics
- Power is having "the ability to change the world in powerful ways through collaborative and collective efforts." - Linda Avey, Co[Founder and Co-President, 23and ME
Reading through the Forbes list, and the reflections of these nine "powerful" women made me think how very differently things work in the economy of God. For the Christian woman, "power" has an entirely different meaning. "Power" is not about chipping our way to the top of Forbes list. It's all about the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is "the power of God." Paul proclaimed that he would never shrink away from proclaiming that fact. (Romans 1:16)
So what does power look like in a Christian woman's life? It looks very, very different than the world's idea of power. For the Christian woman, power is knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection and sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10) Power is not about attaining confidence, prominence, influence, having choices, being the head of a government or having a CEO position in a company. Power is living a cross-centered life. Power is dying to sin and living to righteousness. Power is laying down our lives for the sake of the gospel. Power is humility, and service, and self-sacrifice, and often involves suffering and shame. It's "sharing in Christ's sufferings, becoming like him in his death." That's a radical thought.
So if I were to put together a list of the world's 100 most powerful women, my list would look very different than Forbes. At the top would be my mom, who at age 81 still invites "those young folks without families" over for Sunday dinner, and who spends hours each day praying for every family member, church and government leaders, and a whole host of other things too.
Number 2 might be Ann Gill, who has been so faithful distributing her tasty homemade apple pies to those who need encouragement. She is the "Aaron" holding up the arms of many a Moses.
Number 3 could possibly be my friend Vanessa, who at age 21, quit college to stay at home to care for a mom with a brain tumor and a firefighter dad with lung cancer.
Number 4 might be the woman whose name I can't remember right now who volunteers countless hours running the children's Sunday school program.
Number 5 might be Carol, working with the women at the pregnancy counseling center, or Linda, who faithfully carts bag lunches downtown to feed the homeless. And then there's Kelly, who is struggling so hard in her marriage, who refuses to do the easy thing, but is resolved to hang in there and be faithful.
Those are some of my heroes.
I wonder who would be on God's list of "The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World?" I suspect we wouldn't recognize many of the names. And that few, if any, would be in visible positions of "power." After all, who is more influential-the woman in the forefront, who runs a country? Or the woman in the background, who changes its entire course by petitioning the Lord on her knees? (See Proverbs 21:1)
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that visibility and influence are, in and of themselves, negative. It's just that we have such a skewed idea of what power is all about. And it often makes us value and aim for the totally wrong thing. I, for one, would far rather have the power of Christ's resurrection coursing through my veins than to occupy the number one spot on Forbes list. There is far greater glory in bearing the nails of Christ's cross than in a having a fancy title nailed to my door. Do I want power? Yes. But not the kind the world exalts. I want to exult in the power of Christ-the power of His cross. "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved IT is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18) To me, living a cross-centered life is what it means to be a powerful woman.
Originally posted August 28th, 2009.
© Mary A. Kassian, Girls Gone Wise. Visit Mary's Website at: GirlsGoneWise.com.