The head of the embattled FDIC has been trying to reassure an edgy American public that the country's financial institutions are sound—even as six banks have now failed this year. Bair's domain is the last stop for capital-starved banks (and their insured customers) before going under. But the July demise of IndyMac, the largest bankruptcy of a financial institution in the last two decades, has rattled nerves. As banks continue to fail, Bair must continue to show the fortitude that has helped her lead an institution that is suddenly an actor in this global drama.
03 - Indra K. Nooyi (U.S.) Chairman, chief executive, PepsiCo
Nooyi continues to grow PepsiCo, the $39 billion food and beverage giant, through new product offerings and acquisitions. Company subsidiaries Quaker, Gatorade and FritoLay introduced a new line of whole-grain oatmeal and granola bars called Simple Harvest, and G2, a low-calorie "lifestyle beverage" for athletes. Nooyi orchestrated a major expansion into international markets, most notably with a $1.4 billion acquisition of a 75% stake in Russian juice giant Lebedyansky.
04 - Angela Braly (U.S.) Chief executive, President, WellPoint
Named CEO in June 2007, Braly crashed through health insurance's glass ceiling but still earned $26 million less last year than her male predecessor. The St. Louis attorney helped Missouri's Blue Cross convert from a nonprofit into an investor-owned company in 1994. Made the leap to WellPoint when the company acquired Blue Cross in 2001. The 35-million-member insurer revised its forecasts in March after reporting more claims than expected. Now facing wrath from employees who lost an estimated $100 million from their 401(k)s when company shares swooned 39% in March.
05 - Cynthia Carroll (U.K.) Chief executive, Anglo American
The commodities boom means big money for Carroll. The Skidmore College geology major started her career with Amoco in 1981. Spent 17 years at aluminum company Alcan. In 2006, became the first woman and first non-South African to lead Anglo American, the mining giant founded by Ernest Oppenheimer in 1917. Completed $5.5 billion iron ore deal in Brazil. Recently appointed to the board of BP.
07 - Condoleezza Rice (U.S.) Secretary of state
Shoring up her legacy before the Bush administration leaves office, Rice continues to try for peace in the Middle East; the U.S. is cautiously engaging North Korea and trying to contain Iran. But her efforts are coming to naught around the world: In Pakistan, U.S. support for anti-al-Qaida ally Pervez Musharraf, who resigned, may have jeopardized ties with his successor; Russia is growing more autocratic; and her State Department has come under fire for its lax oversight of contractor Blackwater. Successes: ties with Japan, China and India have solidified.
08 - Ho Ching (Singapore) Chief executive, Temasek Holdings
The wife of the prime minister of Singapore, Ho Ching has been credited with converting Temasek from a Singapore-focused firm to a leading investor in Asia. She earned accolades by making investments in Indian and Chinese telecoms and banks, and as a result, brought the portfolio to roughly $100 billion. Temasek has bought a 15% stake in Merrill Lynch since last December in the wake of the bank's write-downs. Another deal, Temasek's tax-free takeover of Shin Corp., one of Thailand's biggest telecom companies, sparked a wave of protests. The tax-free deal eventually led to the overthrow of Thailand's prime minister.
09 - Anne Lauvergeon (France) Chief executive, Areva
Lauvergeon has seen her leadership tested this year with two leaks of nuclear fuel in France this summer—one of which tainted drinking water in the southeastern town where it occurred. The incidents raised renewed questions about the safety of nuclear power. It's tough timing for Areva—and many hard-pressed governments around the world—as energy prices had spurred a new look at nuclear power. Although she enjoys the public backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Lauvergeon's fate as chief executive may well hinge on her ability to quell fears about the fear of nuclear disaster.
10 - Anne Mulcahy (U.S.) Chairman, chief executive, Xerox Corp.
Mulcahy, credited with pulling iconic copier manufacturer from the brink of financial collapse, is still winning praise for her remarkable turnaround effort. In June she became the first woman to be named by her peers as Chief Executive of the Year, an honor previously bestowed on the likes of Bill Gates and Jack Welch. But don't look for Long Island, N.Y., native Mulcahy to rest on any laurels. To fend off rivals Canon and Hewlett-Packard, she's doubled the software R&D budget to $1.5 billion and focused research efforts on color printing and eco-friendly technologies.
Woertz runs the largest U.S. producer of ethanol, Archer Daniels Midland, a flash point for debates over alternative energy and rising food costs. Global food supplies are scarcer and prices are up. Is agribusiness to blame? Woertz contends food prices are up because of higher gas costs and thinks biofuels are a smart way to offset that. What's next? Sugar ethanol. Became ADM chief in 2006 after 29 years at Chevron and added the chairman post last year.
13 - Cristina Fernandez (Argentina) President
Argentina's first popularly elected woman president has had a rough start, with approval ratings falling to 20% due to unpopular taxes. In July, her own party forced her to revoke tax hikes on grain exports after four months of protests. Despite the setback, "Queen Cristina" will continue to fight an economic meltdown. A lawyer, senator and, most recently, first lady to previous president Nestor Kirchner, she is sometimes compared to the infamous Evita Peron.
14 - Christine Lagarde (France) Minister of economy, finance and employment
Lagarde broke new ground when she was appointed in June 2007 as the first woman finance minister of a Group of Eight economy. Having succeeded at lowering the top tax rates and eliminating inheritance taxes for most, she is now aggressively working to modernize the French economy. A champion synchronized swimmer and winner of France's highest honor, the Legion d'honneur, Lagarde has already made history as the first female chairman of the global law firm Baker & McKenzie, where she was a labor and antitrust lawyer.
15 - Safra A. Catz (U.S.) President and chief financial officer, Oracle Press-shy
Catz calls the day-to-day shots, oversees acquisitions like PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems. Since 2005, Oracle has spent $30 billion for 42 firms. Good results mean Oracle was recently trading close to its five-year high. The former investment banker met Chief Executive Larry Ellison while working on Oracle's secondary offering. In May, she joined the HSBC board. Holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ukraine's first female prime minister returned in December after a tough election. Since then, GDP is growing at 6.4%, and inflation is zero. She is also promoting Ukraine's European prospects. But her party is losing ground while her opponent's remains stable, polls say. Tymoshenko was sacked in 2005 after only eight months, criticized for moves to re-privatize assets allegedly sold cheaply to billionaires. In 2001, on the outs with the government, she was arrested and dismissed.
18 - Mary Sammons (U.S.) Chairman, chief executive, president, Rite Aid
Sammons originally set out to be a French teacher but wound up working at retailer Fred Meyer after she couldn't find a teaching job. She was recruited to Rite Aid in 1999 to help restore it to profitability after years of mismanagement and an accounting scandal. Last year's $3.4 billion purchase of Brooks and Eckerd stores has weighed heavily on the books, limiting the funds available for needed store renovations. Rite Aid still lags behind rivals CVS Caremark and Walgreens nationally, but under Sammons' leadership it's grown to become the largest on the East Coast.
19 - Andrea Jung (U.S.) Chairman, chief executive, Avon
Under Jung's leadership, the world's premier direct seller of beauty products continues to benefit from a restructuring she implemented in 2005. With 5.4 million independent reps across 100 countries, Avon's annual revenue for 2007 increased 13% to $9.9 billion, and first-quarter revenue for 2008 increased 14% over the first quarter of 2007. Business in North America may be sputtering, but it's exploding in emerging markets in Latin America, Europe and Asia. China, which lifted its ban on direct selling in 2006, now boasts 600,000 sales reps.
20 - Marjorie Scardino (U.K.) Chief executive, Pearson PLC
Pearson's 2007 revenues increased 6% to $8.9 billion, and stock prices continued to rise behind mega-deals like the $377 million sale of French newspaper Les Echos to LVMH Mo't Hennessy Louis Vuitton and the $950 million acquisition of Harcourt International and Harcourt Assessment. Despite shareholder pressure, Scardino has held on to business daily the Financial Times and launched a Middle Eastern version in April. In May, Pearson purchased two English-language school chains in China, creating a vast new audience for its textbooks, Penguin trade books and the FT.