The 50 Most Powerful Women in Business: Global edition

By pushing into new territories and inspiring women in their home countries, these globetrotters are, quite literally, taking on the world.

1.  Mary Barra

POD_011314_mary barra
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  • Title: CEO
  • Company: General Motors
  • Age: 52
  • Country: U.S.

The first woman to run a global automaker, Barra oversees more than 212,000 employees in 396 GM facilities on six continents. An electrical engineer who has spent her entire career at GM (GM, Fortune 500), the new CEO faces big challenges in the U.S., where market share is at a historical low and profit margins are below Ford's, and Europe, where GM's Opel brand has lost billions. But companywide, profits are back, and Barra has the board's approval to invest to make GM prosper again.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 06 2014 04:25 PM ET
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Car talk (and more!) with Mary Barra, GM's new chief

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How we pick the Most Powerful Women
To compile this first-ever global MPW ranking, the editors weighed many of the same factors historically used to measure executive power: the size and importance of the business, its health and direction, and the arc of the leader’s career. This time, though, the editors placed emphasis on the international nature of the executive’s operation and her standing in the worldwide business community. Thus, someone like Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer, No. 15 on Fortune’s list of American MPW, drops to No. 39 on the global list because while she sources wares from around the world, all her sales come from just one market, the U.S.
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