The Most Powerful Women in New York Can't Be 'Listed'

The influence of NYC's most prominent females is on a steep upward curve

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Crain's New York Business' top eight most powerful women in New York. Clockwise from the top left: Mary Anne Tighe, Ruth Porat, Indra Nooyi, Patricia Harris, Sallie Krawcheck, Andrea Jung, Katherine Farley, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Power: Ability to do or act; capacity of doing or accomplishing something

--Random House Unabridged Dictionary

One of the irresistible media features, especially in magazines, is lists. Whether based on measurable accomplishments or the judgment of editors, being included is invariably a plus; being excluded or dropped is a downer. U.S News has turned its annual rankings of academic and medical institutions into a lucrative business, with a perennial controversy about the standards it uses. Forbes has its lists of the rich; Fortune keeps track of companies by size and stature. There is hardly a category these days that is not subject to ranking. Among those that come to mind are Time magazine's annual "Time 100," listing the most influential people in the world, which includes a grand banquet as a reward; Vanity Fair's "New Establishment" is made up primarily of leaders in finance, entertainment, and the media; Institutional Investor does financial analysts; New York Magazine rates doctors; and just about every local magazine updates restaurants. Newsweek has featured top high schools for a decade or so, and under its new management revamped the format to make it easier to understand. Whether the value of these rankings is based on empirical data or opinions tossed around editorial tables, their popularity and often their impact can be significant. The result of these assessments, intended or otherwise, is to bestow power on the chosen.

The reason for this prologue is a recent "special issue" of Crain's New York Business that featured "The 50 Most Powerful Women in New York." This was the periodical's first foray into the exercise since 2009, and it says: "This elite group of achievers lead multinational corporations and media enterprises, top tier law firms and major cultural institutions." At the pinnacle is Mary Ann Tighe, chief executive, New York tristate region, for the real estate firm CB Richard Ellis. Rounding out the top five are Ruth Porat, chief financial offer of Morgan Stanley; IndraNooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo.; Patricia Harris, first deputy mayor of New York City and chairman and chief executive of the Bloomberg Family Foundation; and Sallie Krawcheck, president of global wealth and investment management for Bank of America. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was named to replace Hillary Clinton when she was appointed secretary of state and is now an acknowledged rising star among Democrats, ranks number eight; and at number ten is Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council and a contender to be New York's next mayor.

The Crain's list includes thirteen newcomers, and some significant personalities are gone, including Ann Moore, chairman and CEO of Time Inc., and former Deloitte chairman Sharon Allen, who both have retired. The most spectacular downfall is that of Cathleen Black, who left a top job at Hearst last year for her singularly unsuccessful four-month stint as New York's chancellor of public schools.

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Peter Osnos is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He is the founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs books and a media fellow at the Century Foundation.

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