Famous and Powerful Women of the Decade - 2000-2009

In the past few centuries, women have achieved ever-more powerful roles in politics, business and society, in particular, powerful contributions to the world during the decade 2000–2009. This (partial) list of women who made history in the first decade of the 21st century is arranged alphabetically.

01
of 25

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet November 2006
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Chile's first female president, Michelle Bachelet, in New Zealand November 2006. Getty Images / Marty Melville

Michele Bachelet, born in Santiago, Chile in 1951, was a pediatrician before went into politics, becoming the first woman president of Chile. She served in that capacity between 2006–2010, and again in 2014–2018. She is credited with making bold conservation initiatives.

02
of 25

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto December 27 2007
Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan at a campaign rally minutes before being assassinated December 27, 2007. Getty Images / John Moore

Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007), born in Karachi, Pakistan, was the daughter of President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was arrested and executed in 1979 as the result of a military coup. The first female Prime Minister of Pakistan off and on between 1988–1997, Bhutto was standing for elections as Prime Minister again when she was assassinated at a campaign rally in December 2007.

03
of 25

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Clinton Secretary of State
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Hillary Clinton sworn in as the 67th United States Secretary of State, as her husband and daughter, former president Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, look on. Getty Images / Alex Wong

During the first decade of the 21st century, Hillary Clinton (born in Chicago, 1947) was the first former First Lady to hold major elective office, being elected to Congress in January 2001 as the Senator from New York. She was the first woman candidate for U.S. president to almost win a nomination from a major political party (declared candidacy January 2007, conceded June 2008). In 2009, Clinton became the first former First Lady to serve in the cabinet, in her capacity of U.S. Secretary of State for Barack Obama, confirmed January 2009.

04
of 25

Katie Couric

Katie Couric December 2006
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Katie Couric, news anchor, at New York Women in Film and Television Muse Awards, December 2006. Getty Images / Peter Kramer

Katie (Katherine Anne) Couric, born in Virginia in 1957, had been a co-anchor on NBC's Today show for 15 years before she became the first female sole anchor and managing editor of a major news syndicate, CBS Evening News from September 2006 to May, 2011. She was the highest paid journalist in the world, and the program won the Edward R. Murrow Award under her management.

05
of 25

Drew Gilpin Faust

Drew Gilpin Faust February 11 2007
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Drew Gilpin Faust named President of Harvard University, February 22, 2007. Getty Images / Jodi Hilton

Historian Drew Gilpin Faust, born in New York in 1947, became the 28th President of Harvard University when she was appointed February 2007, the first woman to do so.

06
of 25

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina at UN September 2008. Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, born in Buenos Aires province in 1952, is an Argentine lawyer who served as the President of Argentina between 2007 and 2015. She had been a member of the Argentine congress when she succeeded her late husband into the presidential office.

07
of 25

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina on Meet the Press, December 2008
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and John McCain economic advisor, on Meet the Press, December 2008. Getty Images / Alex Wong

Forced to resign as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2005, American businesswoman Carly Fiorina (born Austin, Texas in 1954) was an adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. In November 2009, she announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate from California, challenging Barbara Boxer (D).

In 2010, she went on to win the Republican primary and then lost in the general election to incumbent Barbara Boxer.

08
of 25

Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi of India's Congress Party 2006
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Sonia Gandhi of India's Congress Party in Belgium, November 11, 2006. Getty Images / Mark Renders

Sonia Ghandi, born Antonia Maino in Italy in 1946, is a political leader and politician in India. Widow of India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1944–1991), she was named President of the Indian National Congress in 1998, and with her re-election in 2010 became longest-lasting person in that role. She turned down the Prime Minister's post in 2004.

09
of 25

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates at Harvard, 2007
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Melinda Gates at the Harvard University commencement of 2007, as her husband Bill Gates gives the commencement address. Getty Images / Darren McCollester

Melinda French Gates was born in Dallas, Texas in 1954. In 2000, she and her husband Bill Gates founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which with a $40 billion trust endowment is the world's largest private charitable organization. She and Bill were named Time magazine's Persons of the Year in December 2005.

10
of 25

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg September 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Photograph of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, September 29, 2009, in a photo session including the new Justice, Sonia Sotomajor. Getty Images / Mark Wilson

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, born in Brooklyn, 1963, had been a leader in equal rights for women and minorities since the 1970s when she was head of the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1993, she joined the Supreme Court, and had significant input into several important cases, including the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber (2007) and the Safford Unified School District v. Redding (2009). Despite undergoing treatment for cancer and the loss of her husband in 1993, she never missed a day of oral argument during the first decade of the 21st century.

11
of 25

Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai, December 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Wangari Maathai at UN Climate Change Summit, 2009. Getty Images / Peter Macdiarmid

Wangari Maathai (1940–2011) was born in Nyeri, Kenya and founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in 1977. In 1997, she ran successfully for the presidency, and was arrested the next year by the president for hindering his luxury housing project. In 2002, she was elected to the Kenyan parliament. In 2004, she became the first African woman and first environmental activist to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts,

12
of 25

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Philippines President May 2007
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Philippines president, in Canberra, Australia, May 31, 2007. Getty Images / Ian Waldie

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, born in Manila and daughter of former President Disodado Macapagal, was an economics professor who was elected Vice President of the Philippines in 1998, and became the first woman president in January, 2001, after the impeachment of President Joseph Estrada. She led the country until 2010.

13
of 25

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow October 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Rachel Maddow being interviewed at the 2009 New Yorker Festival, October 27, 2009. Getty Images / Joe Kohen

Rachel Maddow, born in California in 1973, is a journalist and on-air political commentator. She began her career as a radio host in 1999, and joined Air America in 2004, creating the radio program The Rachel Maddow Show which ran from 2005–2009. After stints at several different political television programs, the television version of her program premiered on MSNBC television in September 2008.

14
of 25

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel German Chancellor December 2009
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, at a weekly German cabinet meeting on December 9, 2009. Getty Images / Andreas Rentz

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1954, and trained as a quantum chemist, Angela Merkel served as the leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union from 2010–2018. She became the first woman chancellor of Germany, November 2005 and remains the de facto leader of Europe.

15
of 25

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi PepsiCo Chair and CEO - September 2007
PepsiCo Chair and CEO Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi in Miami at Miami Leadership Roundtable, Miami Dade College, September 2007. Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, born in Chennai, India in 1955, studied at the Yale School of Management in 1978, and after graduating, held strategic planning roles in several businesses, until 1994, when PepsiCo hired her as its chief strategist. She took over as CEO, effective October 2006, and chairperson, effective May 2007.

16
of 25

Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor - May 2009
Sandra Day O'Connor, first female Supreme Court Justice, speaks at a law conference in Washington, DC, May 20, 2009. Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Sandra Day O'Connor was born in El Paso, TX, in 1930, and received a law degree from Stanford University's law school. In 1972, she was the first woman in the U.S. to serve as majority leader in a state senate. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1981, the first female United States Supreme Court Justice, a role she served from until her retirement in 2006.

17
of 25

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama June 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Michelle Obama gives the commencement address at the Washington Math Science Technical High School, June 3, 2009. Getty Images / Alex Wong

Born in Chicago in 1964, Michelle Obama was a lawyer who got her degree at Harvard Law School, and vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago's Medical Center, before her husband Barack Obama was elected President of the U.S. in 2009. Her role as First Lady allowed her to spearhead initiatives for child health and welfare.

18
of 25

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin and John McCain - RNC September 2008
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Sarah Palin stands with John McCain on day 4 of the Republican National Convention of 2008, where McCain, who selected Palin as his running mate, accepts the convention's nomination, September 4, 2008. Getty Images / Ethan Miller

Sarah Palin, born in Idaho in 1964, was a sportscaster before she entered politics in 1992. She was the youngest person and the first woman ever elected as Governor of Alaska, in 2006, a position she resigned in 2009. In August 2008, she was selected as U.S. Senator John McCain's running mate for the Republican presidential ticket. In that role, she was the first Alaskan on a national ticket, and the first Republican woman selected as a vice presidential candidate.

19
of 25

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi press conference on global warming June 2007
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Nancy Pelosi at a press conference on global warming, June 1, 2007. Getty Images / Win McNamee

Nancy Pelosi, born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1940, got her start in politics by volunteering for California Governor Jerry Brown. Elected to the congress at the age of 47, she won a leadership position in the 1990s, and in 2002, she won election as the House Minority Leader in 2002. In 2006, the Democrats took the Senate and Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House of the U.S. Congress in January 2007.

20
of 25

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice at United Nations December 2008
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, at a United Nations press conference, December 15, 2008. Getty Images / Chris Hondros

Born in Birmingham, AL in 1954, Condoleeza Rice obtained a PhD. degrees in political science and worked in the State Department during the Jimmy Carter administration. She served on the National Security Council for George H. W. Bush. She acted as National Security Advisor for George W. Bush from 2001–2005, and was named Secretary of State in his second administration, 2005–2009, the first female African-American Secretary of State.

21
of 25

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - press conference Washington DC 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, at a press conference on a book tour in Washington, DC, April 21, 2009. Getty Images / Alex Wong

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, born in Monrovia, Liberia in 1938, received a masters degree in public administration at Harvard University before returning to Liberia to enter politics. Political turmoil in the country off and on between 1980–2003 led to her repeated exile, but she returned to play a role in a transitional government. In 2005, she won election as president of Liberia, Africa's first female elected head of state. She kept that role until her retirement in 2018; and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

22
of 25

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor September 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Sonia Sotomayor at formal investiture as justice of the US Supreme Court, September 8, 2009. Getty Images / Mark Wilson

Sonia Sotomayor was born in New York in 1954 to immigrant parents from Puerto Rico, and received a law degree from Yale Law School in 1979. After a career including private practice and state prosecutor, she was nominated as a federal judge in 1991. She joined the Supreme Court in 2009, the court's third female and first Hispanic justice.

23
of 25

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi Protest 2007
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 London protestor with mask of Aung San Suu Kyi on the 12th anniversary of her house arrest by Burmese junta. Getty Images / Cate Gillon

Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Yangon, Myanmar in 1945, the daughter of diplomats. After receiving a degree from Oxford, she worked at the United Nations before returning to Myanmar in 1988. That same year, she co-founded the National League for Democracy (NLD), a party dedicated to nonviolence and civil disobedience. Held under house arrest by the ruling junta off and on between 1989 and 2010, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 2015, her party the National League for Democracy won a historical majority, and the next year was named state counselor, the de facto ruler of the country of Myanmar.

24
of 25

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey API FEST 2009
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Oprah Winfrey at a screening of the movie Precious, AFI Fest, November 1, 2009. Getty Images / Jason Merritt

Oprah Winfrey, born in Mississippi in 1954, is a producer, publisher, actor and head of media empire, founding wildly successful properties such as the Oprah Winfrey Show on television from 1985–2011), "O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine" from 2000–present. According to Forbes, she was the first African-American billionaire.

25
of 25

Wu Yi

Wu Yi April 2006
Powerful Women of the Decade 2000 - 2009 Wu Yi, Vice Premier of the Peoples Republic of China, at a news conference in Washington DC on signing a trade agreement with the United States, April 11, 2006. Getty Images / Alex Wong

Wu Yi, born in Wuhan China in 1938, is a Chinese government official who started her political life as deputy major of Beijing in 1988. She was named Minister of Health during the SARS outbreak in 2003, and then as vice premier of the People's Republic of China between 2003–2008.