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Inside Fortune’s 2017 Most Powerful Women in Business List

September 21, 2017, 10:30 AM UTC

What does it mean to be a woman in business in 2017? We wish that were a simpler question. It was a year when female CEOs set a Fortune 500 record: When the list published, they held 32 of the top jobs. Yet it was also a year when the uncomfortable realities that professional women often live with privately burst into the public eye—whether it was at Uber, in the startup and VC community, or at Fox News.

It’s amid this tumultuous backdrop that we publish our 20th Most Powerful Women list. In these pages you’ll see progress, even if it seems frustratingly slow. Our 2017 ranking is home to 26 CEOs, including PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi and HPE’s Meg Whitman, running companies valued at a total $1.1 trillion. It features seven new names—plus Hollywood multihyphenate Reese Witherspoon. Among the rookies: PG&E chief Geisha Williams, the first Latina to lead a Fortune 500 company, and on the international front, Isabel Ge Mahe, who’s running Apple’s China business.

We also lost some familiar faces—including Ursula Burns, who retired as CEO of Xerox, leaving our list bereft of African-American CEOs.

So to answer the question above: It’s complicated. But that’s not stopping 2017’s Most Powerful Women—and it shouldn’t stop you.

Methodology for our Most Powerful Women list:

The Most Powerful Women in Business list is compiled by Fortune editors, who consider four criteria: the size and importance of the woman’s business in the global economy, the health and direction of the business, the arc of the woman’s career (résumé and runway ahead), and social and cultural influence.