Michelle Obama: Most Powerful Lady in the World? Really?


First Lady Michelle Obama named Forbes Most Powerful WomanOK.  I love Michelle Obama. Really, I do.  I admire her achievements, I appreciate her candor, I think her husband is terrific.  Still, it confounds me that Forbes has named her the most powerful woman in the world.

Granted, Forbes puts out these lists to provoke discussion (Lady Gaga is 7). It’s a magazine about the power of money and the first lady has commercial power in fashion.  She has the ear of the president.  She can make things happen. She’s doing amazing work to fight childhood obesity. But, can I say this?  She has her job because of the guy she married.

Forbes’ Meghan Casserly writes about the list:

“Our assessment is based less on traditional titles and roles and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship. These power women have built distinctive companies and brands and championed weighty causes, sometimes through unconventional means; in other cases they have broken through gender barriers.”

Well, Mrs. Obama has taken on “weighty causes” (I can’t believe they wrote that); she is a positive role model. (Full scholarship to Princeton, Harvard Law, working professional and mother — she’s way ahead of me.) But is she a better role model than, say, Jill Biden, who has maintained her professional career while her husband pursued his political aspirations? Cherie Blair continued her work as a prominent attorney throughout her husband’s tenure as Prime Minister of Great Britain (and had a baby at 45!). Hillary Clinton continued to practice law while Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas, and though she resigned from her Little Rock firm the year her husband was elected, she arguably laid the foundation for her political career while she was first lady.

What message did Michelle Obama send to women — and to her daughters — when she gave up her job as a hospital vice president to campaign for her husband? What message did she send when she announced that her role in the White House would be “Mom-in-Chief”? Where will that leave her professionally when her husband’s presidency ends?

Yes, Michelle Obama has achieved great things on her own terms and in her own way. She worked tirelessly to elect President Obama. She would be a model citizen no matter what. But, let’s face it, Mrs. Obama now occupies one of the most traditional roles a woman can have. Powerful, yes. Number one on the list of influential, entrepreneurial, groundbreaking women in the whole world? For all kinds of reasons, no.

Other moms who made Forbes‘ top 10 include Kraft Foods CEO Irene Rosenfeld, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,  and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a step-mom of two.