These women are changing business for the better—and Fortune’s coverage is changing, too
It is hard to change any institution—particularly one as revered as Fortune’s annual ranking of the Most Powerful Women in Business. But in 2020, a year unlike any other, our MPW team concluded that our venerable list would benefit from a crucial tweak. It needed a measure of influence and power that went beyond the company P&L—a sense that the women on this prestigious roster aren’t just great business executives, but also leaders who have used their power and influence to shape their companies “and the wider world for the better,” as Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom and Beth Kowitt write in their introduction to this year’s package.
To be sure, business prowess still takes a front seat, as it has for the previous 22 years we’ve published our ranking. Witness the fact that the 16 CEOs on our 2020 list who run public companies oversee businesses with a combined market value of over $1 trillion.
Which brings me to our No. 1 choice this year, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, who just rounded the calendar on her first year helming the professional services giant. And a big year it has been. The company, which commands a market cap of close to $150 billion, brought in $44.3 billion in revenue in its latest fiscal year, while profits rose 7% from the previous year. As the team writes: “Sweet steered Accenture’s more than half-a-million employees in 51 countries through the pandemic, a crisis that has made the firm’s skills more essential than ever.” Those skills, in case you’re wondering, involve helping much of the rest of the corporate world get through their own digital transformations. Or as Kristen puts it, succinctly: “When the pandemic hit, everybody had to accelerate their five-year plans into a week and a half. That’s what Accenture does.”
Claire Zillman’s wonderful and timely profile of Jane Fraser, who in late September was announced as the next CEO of Citigroup, offers another inside view of power and influence in action. Fraser’s power is the ceiling-smashing type—in February, she’ll become the first woman to head a major U.S. bank—and her career is a model for anyone unwilling to give up their family life in order to pursue a blazing rise to the top. It turns out you can have both.
To capture this “New Face of Power on Wall Street” on our cover, we asked Washington, D.C., artist Tracie Ching to render Fraser in illustration. “Tracie has this very classic engraving style that makes her subjects come alive in vibrant color, giving her work a dramatic, modern ‘poster’ feel,” says Fortune creative director Peter Herbert, whose redesign of our print magazine was recently honored with Folio Magazine’s Ozzie Award.
One of the joys of making magazines is getting a chance to see the words, photographs, graphical elements, art, and design linger together on the page. When they interact just right, you can feel a bolt of energy inside. I hope you can feel that, as I do, in the pages of our November issue.
A version of this article appears in the November 2020 issue of Fortune with the headline, “Change for the better.”