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September 25, 2009 6:46 pm

FT top 50 women in world business

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This inaugural ranking comes as the global crisis has turned a spotlight on male domination of the corporate world: would we be better off if more women were in charge? Some prominent people think so.

Our report, compiled in collaboration with recruitment group Egon Zehnder International, celebrates women business leaders around the world. The fact is that their numbers remain tiny. Just 3 per cent of Fortune 500 chief executives are women. Across Europe, only 10 per cent of board directors of the largest companies are female (quotas have made Norway the exception, with more than 40 per cent) and the numbers are even lower in Asia. This is all the more surprising given the substantial evidence that better gender balance has a positive impact on performance.

For the full profiles of the top 25, read our magazine feature.

What do you think of our Top 50? Have we missed anybody out, or included a woman you think doesn’t deserve to be there? And should the FT publish a ranking of top women in business at all? Join the debate here.

See also a list of top 50 women to watch and the transcript of our roundtable on leadership after the crisis.

How the rankings were judged, by Andrew Hill

All rankings are subjective to some degree, but our aim was to make the Top 50 more than a simple list of the best-known, most prominent or most influential women in world business, writes Andrew Hill. We underpinned the expert jury’s choices with information on the ranked women’s performance and durability, much of it supplied by Egon Zehnder International, the executive recruitment group. We then used a range of factors to assess the candidates. Biographical information obviously played a part. So did data on the size of the company (turnover and number of employees), its scope and complexity (did it, for instance, operate in multiple countries or sectors?) and the competitive landscape. Women running companies with a multinational reach were likely to rank more highly than those in charge of nationally focused groups.

Our panellists decided early in their discussion that the ranking should focus on executives managing the controlling company in any group. That’s a distinction that can be hard to make – particularly in privately held or state-owned holding companies – but it ruled out senior executives such as Daniela Riccardi, Procter & Gamble’s president of greater China, and Ana Patricia Botín of Banesto. The panel acknowledged that these women – and others like them – oversee units that are sometimes larger and more complex than many individual companies.

Tenure was obviously important. Carol Ann Bartz of Yahoo, Ursula Burns at Xerox and Chanda Kochhar at ICICI Bank are in powerful positions. But they cannot be judged as candidates for the FT ranking until they have served at least 12 months in the role.

Finally, we used total shareholder return to gauge corporate performance. This measure varies according to the country, sector and characteristics of the company. It also cannot, by definition, be applied to privately held or government-owned companies. But that is where the experience and judgment of our panel came into play.

Andrew Hill is an associate editor

Who missed out and why
Contenders for 2010 and beyond
(Not considered in this ranking because their tenure as CEO was less than 12 months)

- Carol Ann Bartz, Yahoo (US)
- Ursula Burns, Xerox (US)
- Chanda Kochhar, ICICI Bank (India)
- Ellen Kullman, DuPont (US)
- Monica Mondardini, L’Espresso (Italy)
- Margaret Ma-Yee Ko Leung, Hang Seng Bank (Hong Kong)
- Elisabetta Oliveri, Sirti (Italy)
- Laura Sen, BJS Wholesale Club (US)

(Not considered in this ranking because they are below CEO level or head majority-controlled companies, subsidiaries or divisions)

- Dawn Airey, Five TV (UK)
- Ana Patricia Botín, Banesto (Spain)
- Patrizia Grieco, Olivetti (Italy)
- Lubna Olayan, Olayan Financing (Saudi Arabia)
- Preetha Reddy, Apollo Hospitals (India)
- Amina Rustamani, Tecom Business Parks (UAE)
- Dominique Senequier, Axa Private Equity (France)
- Mian Mian Yang, Haier Group (China

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