Janet Yellen, nominated yesterday as chairman of the US Federal Reserve
Yellen will be the first woman to head the mighty US Federal Reserve if she takes over at the central bank in January. Her job will be to maintain the stuttering recovery of the world's largest economy. Yellen is an expert on the causes and impact of unemployment and is regarded as an economic "dove" who will stick with current chairman Ben Bernanke's massive support programme for the economy. Yellen first joined the Fed in 1977 but left in 1978 to lecture at the London School of Economics with her Nobel-winning economist husband George Akerlof. She has straddled academia and public office since and advised Bill Clinton for two years of his presidency. Her appointment as the Fed's vice chairwoman in 2010 set her up to succeed Bernanke.
Indra Nooyi, chair and chief executive of PepsiCo
Nooyi has proved herself a tough operator leading PepsiCo – the world's second biggest food and drinks business – for the last seven years. Two years ago there was pressure for her to stand down but she held on and increased sales. In July, she faced down activist investor Nelson Peltz, who was applying pressure for Pepsi to split its drinks business off from the more successful snacks arm. Nooyi, 57, was born and educated in India. After various strategy and consulting jobs, and postgraduate study at Yale, she joined Pepsi in 1994, aged 29. By 2001 she was chief financial officer, running the group's strategy and overseeing purchases of Tropicana and Quaker Oats Co on her way to the top job.
Gina Rinehart, mining magnate
Gina Rinehart's $17bn fortune appreciates by about $1bn every year, which makes her Australia's richest person and one of the wealthiest women in the world. Still, last year she felt able to urge Australians to work for $2 a day. She has also made the news as a result of a legal battle with three of her four children, who she cut out of the family trust. Rinehart, 59, left the University of Sydney after a year after finding a leftwing economics lecturer and fellow students not to her taste. Instead, she returned to her native Perth to work at Hancock Prospecting, the mining business owned by her father, Lang. Despite hitting the headlines, Rinehart has generally shunned the press, yet she has bought stakes in media businesses Channel 10 and Fairfax.
Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil
Hardly a household name – even in Brazil – for much of her career, Dilma Rousseff, a career civil servant who had never so much as run for elected office, has become the first woman president of the world's sixth-largest economy in 2011. A former 1960s revolutionary who spent three years in jail and was reportedly tortured, she joined President Lula da Silva's government in 2003 as energy minister and two years later was made his chief of staff (during her election campaign, Lula helpfully dubbed her "mother of the nation"). Brusque and short-tempered, the 66-year-old is known to favour a strong state presence in key areas including oil, energy and banking . She has also pledged to fight corruption and invest more in transport, health and education following mass street protests earlier this year that revealed how Brazil's boom has failed to improve the lives of many ordinary citizens. She is not afraid to take on the big guns, either, berating the US at the United Nations and postponing a visit to Washington over the recent NSA spying revelations.
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