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Nicola Sturgeon, Angelina Jolie and Caitlyn Jenner top BBC Woman's Hour power list

This year's list lauds the women who wield the most influence over our lives and also includes Vogue editor Anna Wintour

Published: Wednesday, 1st July 2015 at 9:40 am

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, actress Angelina Jolie and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner are the most influential women in the world according to a BBC power list.


They have been named in the roll call of top 10 influencers in a special Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme today presented by Jane Garvey and Jenni Murray and broadcast live from the BBC Radio Theatre. The aim of the list is to identify women who have a large impact on our lives with Sturgeon topping the rankings following her party’s success in the recent Westminster election and Vogue editor Anna Wintour in second place.

Angelina Jolie comes in at number three because of her influence in speaking about her own health issues and humanitarian work. Caitlyn Jenner is seventh because of her work "bringing the experience of being a trans woman to a global audience", according to Radio 4.

This year’s judging panel was chaired by journalist Emma Barnett and included human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy QC, Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine and Whistles chief executive Jane Shepherds.

This is the third Woman’s Hour power list, following on from the top 100 list in 2013, which was topped by the Queen, and the game-changers list in 2014, which was topped by Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The full list of the top 10 influencers is as follows:

1. Nicola Sturgeon – leader of the SNP

Emma Barnett said: “Of course Nicola Sturgeon has huge power in a traditional sense, as the leader of the SNP. But she also wields a huge amount of influence right now because of the state of both the UK union and the European one. Ahead of the in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, how she chooses to wield that influence over the public and her fellow political leaders could have potentially huge ramifications for this country. She is the woman of the moment in terms of influence and hard power.”

2. Anna Wintour – editor-in-chief of American Vogue

Jane Shepherdson said: “Anna Wintour influences the world in what to wear, how to look, and who to celebrate. She is a quiet dignified presence, who wields incredible influence through her position as editor of US Vogue, and artistic director of Conde Nast. She decides who will grace the cover of Vogue, be it model or celebrity, depending on whether or not she feels they are relevant. She advises the great and the good on both what to wear and which designers they should be seen to be supporting. Like the captain of any other industry, Wintour’s word is almost law. She has embraced the fashion status of Michelle Obama, putting the first lady on the magazine’s cover, and then co-hosted a fund raiser for Barack Obama with Scarlett Johansson in 2012.”

3. Angelina Jolie – actor, director and humanitarian ambassador

Helena Kennedy said: “Angelina Jolie uses her celebrity to impressive ends. She has been a powerful influence on women’s health by being so open about her own choices as someone with a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. She has also influenced government policy here and elsewhere in the world to recognise rape and violence against women as a war crime. William Hague persuaded the government to put up £1m to start a centre dedicated to the study of women, violence and conflict at LSE. Many of us had been trying for years to get money out of government for that one thing – now that’s influence.”

4. Katharine Viner – editor of The Guardian

Emma Barnett said: “The newly appointed editor of one of the UK’s broadsheets can’t be anything other than influential. The reach of British newspapers has never been as large as it is in today’s globalised and digitally powered world. Katharine Viner, despite taking over the reins of The Guardian only a matter of weeks ago, is immediately one of the most influential women in the English speaking world. She is also, of course, the first female editor of the broadsheet in its 194-year history.”

5. Camilla Cavendish – director of Downing Street Policy Unit

Sarah Vine said: “Newly appointed as the head of the Policy Unit at No 10, Camilla will be responsible for shaping the next five years of government. Her ideas and opinions will influence not just the Prime Minister, but all government departments and by extension everyone in the UK. She has a reputation as a clear, analytical thinker, coupled with a forensic attention to detail. To have a woman of her calibre at the heart of government is a great asset. She is only the second woman to have held such an influential and crucial position (the other was Sarah Hogg in the 1990s).”

6. Sia – singer, songwriter and music video director

Gemma Cairney said: “It is a secret to most how much of a part of the pop music eco-system Sia actually is. When we discussed her Grammys performance in detail, the impact it had, getting a reality TV star (Maddie Ziegler) and Hollywood actor (Kristen Wiig) to depict a massive pop song – Chandelier – that’s actually about Sia’s battles with self-destruction via contemporary dance, we thought about her layers of influence as an artist and songwriter. We discussed the lesser known fact that she’s also written for songs for Beyonce, Rihanna, Jessie J and Katy Perry in the past decade – all the while remaining faceless in an industry so much based on, well, face.”

7. Caitlyn Jenner – high profile trans woman

Sarah Vine said: “Like it or not, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and its various offshoots have been central to popular culture over the past few years. When we initially debated this list, many of us felt that Kim Kardashian would have to appear somewhere – not because any of us felt any particular admiration for the woman, but simply because her influence on millions of women worldwide is undeniable. But then the Caitlyn Jenner story broke and I in particular felt that she trumped all others in the celebrity stakes, not just because of immediacy and the amount of coverage her transformation received but also because of her courage in coming forward as a transgender person in such a public way. I understand why someone like Jenner might make people feel uncomfortable; but she is a human being like the rest of us and should not be denied the same rights – or indeed respect – as those who live more conventional lives. As to her influence, it can only be to the good if a wider audience can learn to understand her experience.”

8. Karen Blackett, CEO, MediaCom UK

Gemma Cairney said: “When we discussed the undeniable influence of advertising and bought media on our everyday lives, we wanted to find a woman who operates at the heart of this world, working with global companies to help them shape their identity and get their messages across to consumers. Karen Blackett is this woman – she is a true powerhouse, and as chief executive of MediaCom, she influences the way we spend money in every area of our lives.”

9. Zanny Minton Beddoes – editor-in-chief of The Economist

Helena Kennedy said: “As editor of The Economist, and as a widely read economic analyst, Zanny Minton Beddoes influences politicians, policy makers and other movers and shakers around the world on financial matters. She is a high level opinion former who is below most radar.”

10. Sara Khan – co-founder of Inspire


Emma Barnett said: “Sara Khan through her counter terrorism work in schools and communities is influencing young people and women to stand up to extremist ideologies. She co-founded Inspire, a not for profit organisation which seeks to empower women to redress what she says is the gender imbalance within the UK’s Muslim community and stand up for what’s right for them and their children. While not everyone might agree with this approach, she is having an impact in one of the most important battlegrounds of the 21st century.”


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