The World’s Most Powerful Black Women

Forbes magazine finds nine who are making a real impact.

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  • Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama

    First Lady of the United States

    It is no revelation that Michelle Obama is more popular than President Obama. While she has the intellect to make policy, as first lady she doesn’t have to. Instead Mrs. Obama concentrates on youth, applying style and insight in the Let’s Move! campaign, promoting new nutritional standards with Choosemyplate.gov and extending her message through her trip to South Africa. That she’s lovely, provides intellectual and emotional support for her husband and is a great mom are just extras for the eighth most powerful woman in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

    Captions by Frank McCoy

  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey

    Media Mogul

    Serial entrepreneur, publisher, media star and philanthropist Winfrey, 57, is worth more than $2.7 billion and ranks No. 14 on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful women. Winfrey, a graduate of Tennessee State University, may have left her popular television show behind, and her Oprah Winfrey Network is struggling, but she still made an estimated $290 million in 2010. Her philanthropic endeavors include the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa and Oprah’s Angel Network.

  • Beyoncé Knowles

    Beyoncé Knowles

    Entertainer

    There is no doubt that mother-to-be Knowles, 30, is a wonderful entertainer and multiproduct spokeswoman, but her influence is of a different type from that of the other black women on this list. Girls who wish to emulate her should consider how Knowles, who ended her professional relationship with her father this year, is now in control of both the business and the entertainment sides of her life. Forbes ranks her at No. 18.

  • Ursula M. Burns

    Ursula M. Burns

    Chairman and CEO
    Xerox

    Last year Xerox, under the leadership of CEO Burns, had revenues of $21 billion. During her 30-year career at the imaging giant, Burns, who earned a B.S. and an M.S. in mechanical engineering, rose from intern to president and became chairman and CEO in 2010. She is the first black woman to lead a key publicly traded company, and does so rocking a stylish natural hairdo. View other top black women in technology. She is No. 27 on the Forbes list of most powerful women.

  • Helene Gayle

    Helene Gayle

    President and CEO
    CARE USA

    In 2010 the global humanitarian organization that Gayle leads employed about 10,000 people and helped 82 million people fighting poverty in 87 countries. The physician with a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University joined CARE in 2006. Since then she has reinforced empowerment of girls and women and used nongovernmental and corporate partners to expand CARE’s reach. Previously she worked for 20 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, primarily on HIV/AIDS. She ranks No. 36 on the Forbes list.

  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

    President of Liberia

    Since her election to lead the tiny West African nation in 2006, Johnson Sirleaf has presided over Liberia’s rebuilding after years of strife. Her efforts have resulted in greater national security and have attracted aid donors, which led to $4 billion in debt relief and more than $16 billion in mining, agriculture and forestry investments. The graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and former World Banker is Africa’s first female head of state. She is ranked No. 62 by Forbes.

  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

    Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

    Finance Minister of Nigeria

    When Okonjo-Iweala (No. 87)  left her post as managing director at the World Bank to become Nigeria’s finance minister, she brought strong credentials. From 2003 to 2006, Okonjo-Iweala was finance minister under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and was known as an advocate of financial stability and transparency. During recent ministerial nomination hearings, Okonjo-Iweala criticized Nigeria’s budget allocations, saying that the country was living beyond its means. She also asked why Nigeria, a major oil exporter, did not produce related products for domestic consumption.

  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

    Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

    President and CEO
    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

    In 1984 Lavizzo-Mourey was a RWJF scholar. In 2003 she became the first female leader of the nation’s largest health-focused philanthropic group. The RWJF, with an endowment of $10 billion, has current initiatives against childhood obesity and smoking and administers more than $400 million in charitable and program distributions. Lavizzo-Mourey, a Harvard-trained physician with a Wharton School MBA, recently co-directed a congressionally mandated study on racial disparities in health care. She ranks No. 95 on the Forbes list.

  • Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita

    Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita

    CEO
    ArcelorMittal South Africa

    Since 2008, South African Nyembezi-Heita, 51, has been CEO of a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steel maker, owned by the Mittal family of India. For Nyembezi-Heita (No. 97 on the Forbes list), an ex-Vodaphone senior executive who has a Master of Science in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology and an MBA, this year has been a challenge because a weakened construction sector has purchased less steel.