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Most Powerful Women International (2021)

It’s been a turbulent year for women at the top of the world’s largest businesses. Whether navigating the challenges of the ongoing global pandemic, activist pressure campaigns, regulatory crackdowns, or the many other urgent forces reshaping the economy today, the leaders who appear on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International list this year are very much in the thick of it. And that’s a good thing.

As we chronicle every year on this list, which focuses on women business leaders based outside the U.S., more and more of them are leading the world’s most important and influential corporations (not to mention, founding some of its most successful and groundbreaking startups). With that comes enormous responsibility and challenge, but also the power to make massive and meaningful change in a world aching for it. This year, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley and Ping An co-CEO Jessica Tan return to the top spots. They’ve both been tested recently: Walmsley faces an especially aggressive activist; Tan the newly heightened scrutiny of the Chinese government. But both continue to drive forward their organizations in uncertain times. And like others on this list, they realize their leadership extends beyond balance sheets and that when it comes to some of our most pressing global problems—whether it be climate change or corrosive social inequalities—business decisions can make a difference. 

The women on this year’s MPWI list hail from 21 countries. Twelve of the leaders are new to the list. See the full list here.