I learned a lot clicking through TIME’s 2012 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, available on newsstands today in the first ever perfect-bound edition of the magazine. The ninth annual list includes 54 international figures from 37 countries, more than any previous TIME 100. Additionally, there are 38 women on the 2012 TIME 100, more than ever before. There are individuals of every political affiliation and possible profession on the list, from civil rights advocates to comedians like Chelsea Handler, Louis CK and Stephen Colbert. (The list isn’t presented in any particular order of influence, but Colbert’s profile does appear last, in the “number one” slot.)
In examining the lives of the women on the list, I discovered, perhaps unsurprisingly, that several of the most influential women in the world are childless, seemingly by choice. I wondered accordingly if perhaps it was easier for women to rise to positions of power without the burden of having to raise kids. Take Virginia M. Rometty, named to the list as a result of her role as CEO at IBM, who has no children and “a husband with the time and flexibility to support her career,” according to this profile of her in The New York Times, which also states that of the 29 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, 27 are married but only 18 of them have children. “While impressive, that’s a far lower rate than the 87 percent of married women in the population at large who have children of their own,” the Times reports.
While researching Madam Chen Lihua – one of China’s female billionaires - I learned that several of the world’s female self-made billionaires are Chinese. The Financial Times attributes that to the fact that “Working mothers in China are able to aim high, in part because they have more shoulders to lean on than their American and European peers when it comes to childcare.” (They also work an average of 71 hours a week. Yikes.) Madam Lihua, however, appears not to have had any children.
A few of the women in this year’s TIME 100 are not mothers in the traditional sense, but have dedicated their lives to working with children, like India’s Anjali Gopalan, who raises orphans at Naz, her South Delhi-based orphanage for children living with AIDS. But how many of the 38 most influential women in the world actually have children? Only 12. They are: