Forbes announced its 20th annual ranking of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women on December 5, 2023. The list is the definitive ranking of the most inspirational female CEOs, entertainers, politicians, philanthropists and policymakers making a life-changing impact on the world today. For the second consecutive year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen topped this list. She is followed by European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris, who retain their ranking at number two and three.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister Of Finance And Corporate Affairs, India secures the 32nd rank this year, representing our country for the fifth time on this prestigious list. Being India’s first full-time female finance minister, her political career has propelled her to greater heights globally. HCL Corporation Chairperson Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Steel Authority Of India Chairperson Soma Mondal, and Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw comprise the Indians who have earned positions on this prestigious list.

Forbes world's most powerful women list 2023 Barbie Nirmala Sitharaman Roshni Nadar Malhotra Soma Mondal Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

The Pop Culture Effect

The pop culture triad of Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Barbie sparked billions of dollars of consumer spending. Their influence on consumers was so powerful that Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell addressed it in a July press conference. As a result, the trio have spots on the 2023 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Beyoncé jumped to No. 36, up from 80 in 2022; Oprah is at No. 31 and Rihanna comes in at No. 74. American singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift, makes her highest-ever appearance at fifth place marking the first time since the list’s inception that an entertainer has broken into the top five. Barbie takes the 100th spot, the position allocated every year to a figure that’s not the traditional image of power but one who has, nonetheless, come to define a year.

In A Barbie World

Barbie is the first-ever fictional character to be selected as one of Forbes’ most powerful women in the world, a list that otherwise includes 99 hardworking, flesh-and-blood founders, leaders and innovators. This character went from the shelves and movies to now being named among women pioneers who have put in their all to reach up the ladder and bring about a significant change in the world. But the very real difficulties in conquering those obstacles are exactly why Forbes chose her for the list.

She’s a force to be reckoned with,” says Lisa McKnight, Mattel’s chief brand officer and global head of Barbie. Here’s a character that boosted an entire industry on the heels of Barbie: The Movie. She may have been just a doll but Greta Gerwig’s 2023 Warner Bros. movie made sure that Barbie expanded beyond a symbol of female empowerment to become the symbol for fighting to recapture power that’s been taken away.

Record crowds turned the movie into a touchstone. It drew $1.4 billion at the global box office, enough to land Gerwig in the history books as the first woman to helm a $1 billion-plus moneymaker as a solo director. The movie was so talked-about that Pantone named Barbie’s favourite, deep pink, its colour of the year.

The Barbie doll was created by Ruth Handler to show her daughter she could aspire to a life and career that extended beyond taking care of babies. The character was founded as a revolutionary figure. She’s inspired girls and their mothers for generations, nearly 65 years into her “life,” the 11.5-inch Barbie stands at the height of her influence.

Also Read: How The Barbie Movie Is Bringing Mattel Back To Life

Why Barbie Deserves To Be On The List

  1. Boosted Economy: According to the data reported by Forbes, the sale of dolls made a major jump from 16% in the third quarter, to $605 million in 2022.
  2. Popularity and Growing Influence: There are no two ways about how popular the doll has been. Ever since the making of the Barbie-The Movie, the world was painted pink with barbiecore trends making it big. It rocked social media. She has over 5 million followers across TikTok and Instagram and has nearly 12 million subscribers on YouTube.
  3. Inspiring Women: We all have had certain emotions while playing with our favourite Barbie dolls. Speaking to Forbes, Colleen Kirk, a consumer behaviour professor from New York Institute of Technology said, ”When girls play with a doll, they explore and create identities for themselves.” Some look at the dolls and think, ‘this astronaut, this is who I am; this surgeon is who I am.’ “It’s not about the toy, right? It’s the whole idea that Barbie can reflect our aspirations. We can put ourselves into this doll, as women of all ages, and that’s really powerful,” said Colleen.
  4. Fuelling Aspirations: Barbie was criticised for its exclusivity that’s when Mattel started manufacturing of relatable barbies that represented several different occupations and styles. Soon, the market witnessed a flux of more real Barbies which weren’t as perfect as they were earlier portrayed, thus inspiring children.

The Forbes List Selection Process

Women featured in the 2023 ranking represent six categories: business, technology, finance, media & entertainment, politics & policy, and philanthropy. To determine the rank within each category, as well as overall rank on the list of 100, Forbes applied four metrics: money, media, impact and spheres of influence. Those featured are builders, disruptors, and innovators in every sector, from corporate to creative worlds, taking a modern, forward-looking view on power.

In a year overshadowed by turbulent uncertainty and instability, the world’s most powerful women are leveraging their influence beyond traditional realms to drive profound transformation,” remarks Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President at Forbes. “As we grapple with a global convergence of crises, the need for their leadership has never been more evident or urgent.

You’re not always going to be followed by a woman just because a woman had been in the position,” Hillary Rodham Clinton told Forbes in March. “We still have work to do to [put] women in a position to step into leadership roles.” Philanthropist Melinda French Gates said, “It’s when you get women far enough into seats of power in multiple places in the world that things start to change.

According to Forbes, Barbie could be a controversial choice in the backdrop of never-ending wars, environmental concerns, and of all the qualms in the world. Amidst these trials by fire in the world, such characters prove to be inspiring and offer a glimmer of hope.