Skip to Content

Most Powerful Women International (2019)

You still have to squint to spot the women leading large global businesses. In 2019, female executives helmed just 14 of the world’s 500 largest companies—and that was actually an improvement over the previous year, when there were only 12. But zooming out—as Fortune does each year with this list—at women in powerful jobs across the international landscape (outside the U.S.), there’s reason to think there’s bigger change afoot.

A full third of this year’s honorees are new—recently appointed to top jobs at multinational firms (see Ping An’s Jessica Tan, Solvay’s Ilham Kadri, and Puma Energy’s Emma FitzGerald) or promoted to high-profile roles at global giants (like Petrobras CFO Andrea Marques de Almeida, Air France CEO Anne Rigail, and Uniqlo Japan CEO Maki Akaida).

Many represent industries in which we have rarely seen women at the top—from chemicals to oil and gas to metal manufacturing. And while they’re early into their new, more powerful roles and largely untested, what’s significant is that they’re in a position to make a difference.

The women on this year’s list hail from 19 countries (and every continent but Antarctica), and fewer and fewer of them have any family connection to the businesses they’re running.

One notable exception is Ana Botín, the executive chair of Banco Santander, the $90.5 billion international banking juggernaut, who returns to the No. 1 spot this year. Santander may have been the bank her father built, but Botín has proved its capable leader for the past five years.

By Eamon Barrett, Katherine Dunn, Erika Fry, Hadley Hitson, Polina Marinova, Rey Mashayekhi, McKenna Moore, Sy Mukherjee, Natallie Rocha, Anne Sraders, and Claire Zillman.