Jacinda Ardern named among most powerful women in world, ahead of Queen Elizabeth

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been named the 32nd most powerful woman in the world by business magazine Forbes

The 17th annual power rankings lists 100 women from 30 countries, including 10 heads of states, 38 chief executives and five entertainers. 

Ardern, who rose to power in 2017 and was re-elected in October with a historic majority for her Labour Party, is namechecked for the "global praise" she received "for her capable handling of the COVID-19 pandemic". Forbes says New Zealand successfully eliminated the virus "in both waves" by implementing "strict lockdown and quarantine procedures".

It's up from her position of 38 in 2019, but down from 29 in 2018.

Topping the list - as she has done for the last 10 years - is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by Christine Lagarde, who in 2019 became the first woman to head the European Central Bank.

Third is US vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. In Forbes' introduction to the list, the magazine argues her performance in the vice-Presidential debate in October became a defining moment.

Telling vice-President Mike Pence "I'm speaking" when he interrupted her was a "comeback [that] launched a thousand memes (and even a handful of T-shirts)" and "a rallying call for women across America". 

"One month after the debate, Senator Harris became the first woman, first  Black American and first Asian American to be elected vice president - an unprecedented trifecta of firsts for California Senator Harris."

Harris is followed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and philanthropist Melinda Gates. 

Other figures Kiwis may be familiar with on the list include US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (7), TV personality Oprah Winfrey (20), Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (37), Queen Elizabeth II (46), Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (59), singer Rihanna (69), Star Wars head honcho Kathleen Kennedy (73) and actress Reese Witherspoon (92).

Forbes also provides more specific lists, such as 'Politics & Policy'. On that list, Ardern is ranked the seventh most powerful woman.