Asia's most powerful women, some less so this year, according to Forbes

(From left) Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi fell seven spots to 33, while Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed moved up six places from last year's 36th spot.
(From left) Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi fell seven spots to 33, while Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed moved up six places from last year's 36th spot.PHOTO: EPA-EFE, REUTERS

NEW YORK - In what appeared to be a reversal of political fortunes stemming from the months-old Rohingya crisis, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi fell seven spots in a ranking of the world's most powerful women while the prime minister of neighbouring Bangladesh overtook her to clinch the 30th position.

Ms Suu Kyi, who made a surprise visit to the conflict-battered Rakhine state in Myanmar on Thursday (Nov 2), is ranked No. 33 on Forbes Power Women list this year. The state counsellor of Myanmar, who is known as "The Lady", was ranked No. 26 last year (2016).

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed moved up six places from last year's 36th spot.

"In stark contrast to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, the "lady of Dhaka" has promised aid to Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar, allotting 2,000 acres of land in Bangladesh for the refugees," said Forbes in a write up on the Bangladeshi leader.

It says Ms Hasina, 70, is "proud to bear the bulk of the cost" of the relocation of these refugees to her country, which includes issuing identification cards to the refugees and providing childhood immunisations.

Ms Suu Kyi, 72, "has left the world dumbfounded as she has appeared to stand quietly by as the Myanmar army engaged in what the UN has referred to as an ethnic cleansing of the 300,000 Rohingya Muslims who called Myanmar their home", says Forbes.

"The current crisis suggests that either Suu Kyi was not the peace activist many mistook her for or that as Myanmar's state counsellor, she has very little power to wield," says Forbes.

  • Other prominent Asian faces on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women List

  • No. 32

    Chanda Kochhar, CEO-Managing director, ICICI Bank

    One of the highest paid private bank CEOs in India,she is the first Indian woman to receive the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for Global Citizenship.

    The 55-year-old made history again in September when she took the ICICI (Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India) bank’s insurance business public, the first IPO of a general insurer in India.

    No. 34

    Lucy Peng, executive chairman, Ant Financial Services, Alibaba Group

    The 44-year-old former teacher is one of the 18 founders of China’s tech giant Alibaba. She has previously been, among other positions in the Alibaba Group, its chief people officer.

    ​She is one of the wealthiest woman in the male-dominated tech world, with a net worth of around US$1.2 billion.

    No. 38

    Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand

    At 37, she is the youngest female leader in the world and New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in 150 years. 

    No. 40

    Jean Liu, President, Didi Chuxing

    A newcomer to the Forbes’ Power Women list, the Harvard-educated former investment banker made global headlines last year (2016) after she and Didi’s chairman Cheng Wei made Uber sell its China operations to their company.

    Ms Liu, a 39-year-old Beijing native, joined the company in 2014.

    No. 51

    Peng Liyuan, China’s First Lady

    In its write-up on Madam Peng, Forbes says the 54-year-old is “China’s first high-profile first lady since Chairman Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing - inserting a shot of glamour into a role that has become more traditional over the years”

Women in politics continue to dominate Forbes' latest list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women, occupying 21 spots out of a list drawn from seven "power bases" of billionaires, business, finance, media, politics, philanthropists/NGOs and technology.

Together, the 100 women directly influence more than three billion people, according to Ms Moira Forbes, executive vice-president of Forbes Media. This year’s list was released on Wednesday (Nov 1).

As with every year, four metrics were used: money (either net worth, company revenues, assets, or GDP); media presence; spheres of influence; and impact, analysed both within the context of each woman's field (media, technology, business, philanthropy/NGOs, politics, and finance) and outside of it.

Topping the list for the seventh consecutive year and 12 times in total is 63-year-old German Chancellor Angela Merkel who won a fourth term in office - albeit with the lowest share of the vote since 1949 - in September.

Taking the No. 2 spot is newcomer British premier Theresa May, 61, who is struggling to contain Brexit divisions within her own party and wield authority after a snap election gamble in June backfired.

Mrs Hillary Clinton's defeat at last November's US presidential election pushed her down from the No. 2 place to the 65th spot. Mrs Clinton, 70, has been on Forbes' World's Most Powerful Women's list every year since the list's inception in 2004.

Singapore's Temasek Holdings chief executive Madam Ho Ching, too, has featured on the list every year since 2004. She is ranked No. 28 this year, up two places from last year.

Another Singaporean who made it to the list is GGV Capital managing partner Jenny Lee. The Shanghai-based venture capital investor is ranked 94th this year, jumping six places from the 100th place last year. Six of GGV's portfolio companies were acquired in 2016 alone, including China Talent Group, a human resources services provider, game publisher Gamespedia and U51, a consumer credit loan rating shop.

In Asia, women are flexing their entrepreneur muscles like never before.

Making her debut to the list is China's ride-sharing startup Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu, 39.

She is among the 23 women who hail from the Asia Pacific region. Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen is the only Asian woman who made it to the top 20 list this year. She moved up two positions to the No. 15 spot.

Twenty-three women, or nearly one in four, are first-timers to the Forbes' power league.

Apart from Mrs May and Ms Liu, other prominent newcomers include Ms Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, who is in the 19th place; newly appointed New Zealand prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who took the 38th spot; Ms Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations in the 43th place; and Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, who is ranked 97 on the list.

US first lady Melania Trump was not this year's list. Her predecessor Michelle Obama, who was ranked No. 13 last year, is dropped this year. Another notable "drop-off" is former South Korea president Park Geun Hye, who is facing corruption charges over the country's biggest political scandal. Ranked No. 12 in 2016, she was one of two Asian women who made it to the top 20 last year.