The World's Most Powerful Women

With great power comes great responsibility. Knowledge is power. Before we acquire great power we must acquire wisdom to use it well.

Power is something we think about. A lot. And powerful women - that inspire, lead and fight, no matter their position - are women we rightly admire. 

Forbes' annual ranking of the World's Most Powerful Women pulls together the world's most extraordinary women, based on visibility and economic impact, and German chancellor Angela Merkel has topped the table nine times in the past decade.

From world leaders to pop icons, here is a selection of the world's - and Europe's - most powerful women, each making an impact in her own way.  

Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

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Angela Merkel "I might bend, but I will NEVER break because it's in my nature as a strong woman." Germany's Chancellor is kind of a big deal: currently in her third four-year term at the helm of Germany, she's the longest-serving elected EU head of state. A former physicist, she's taken Germany to a new level of global prominence and is known for her cautious governing style. The Chancellor's open-door migration policy, which welcomed over 1 million asylum seekers into Germany in the last year, gained her lots of global support - and as many detractors. Credit: Michael Gottschal/Photothek/Getty Images

Christine Lagarde "The evidence is clear, as is the message: when women do better, economies do better." The French Lagarde knows her numbers - she is the first female managing director of the International Monetary Fund. The women who helps to keep the world's billions in check preaches a message of economic reform and has recently urged governments to prepare for weak growth and high risks - what she terms the "new mediocre." Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Malala Yousafzai "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world." She may only be 18 years old, but Malala Yousafzai has already changed the world: the Pakistani children's activist was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban in 2012. She survived the attack and continues to be outspoken about the importance of education for girls, and in 2014 Malala became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. #GOALS Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Adele "I have insecurities of course... but I don't hang out with anyone who points them out to me." The power to break world records and convince the world to buy music again? Adele's got it. Her latest effort, 25, sold 3.38 million copies in its first week in the U.S., breaking the world record for most albums sold in a week. She also speaks out about body image and industry pressure, making her an inspiring role model for everyone. Credit: Luca Teuchmann/Getty Images

Duchess of Cambridge "Yes, well I really hope I can make a difference. Even in the smallest way." Sure, the Duchess of Cambridge does her part with charity work, favouring organisations that help children, support the arts, and promote outdoor activities. But her real power? Whenever she steps out the door, millions are inspired by her sartorial choices (hands up if you own a pair of L.K. Bennett Sledge pumps?). An understated ambassador for British fashion, the royal champions the outfit repeat, proving she is just like the rest of us. Well, sort-of. Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Hillary Clinton "Too many women in too many countries speak the same language - of silence." When it comes to having showdown talks about nuclear arms, does anyone seem as formidable - or up to the task - as Hillary Clinton? The former Secretary of State continues to trailblaze and fight her campaign to break down that next glass ceiling: becoming the first female President of the United States of America.  Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images  

Oprah Winfrey "Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness." With a net worth of $3 billion, Oprah Winfrey is an impressive example of intelligence, resilience, the power of believing in oneself and never giving up. The woman wears many hats - producer, media mogul, actress, entrepreneur, and so many more - and her work with young girls as part of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation and Academy for Girls in South Africa is helping to combat poverty through education, inspiring and aiding future generations of women. Credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

Katharine Viner "Try asking for equal pay while wearing a baby-doll frock." The editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media - the first female to take up the position - Viner has promised to lead an organisation that is "bold, challenging, open and engaging. It will be a home for the most ambitious journalism, ideas and events, setting the agenda and reaching out to readers all around the world." Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images

Ana Botín "We need to change how we run banks. We need to change the culture." It takes strength to take up a leading role at one of the world's top banks, the Santander Group, on any day, but stepping up to the helm of a European lending powerhouse the day after your father dies deserves serious admiration. She was the first woman to run a British bank when she became head of Santander UK in December 2010. Did we mention she manages 75 billion Euros in market cap on any given day? Credit: Curto De La Torre/AFP/Getty Images

Anna Wintour "Even if I'm completely unsure, I'll pretend I know exactly what I'm talking about and make a decision." The formidable Anna Wintour has been American Vogue's editor-in-chief for almost 20 years and is also the artistic director of Condé Nast. She has turned the annual Met Ball into the Olympics (or Oscars, take your pick) of the fashion world - not to mention a major fundraising event. Her signature bob-and-sunglasses look has inspired countless designers and legions of followers, and Meryl Streep played a character based on her. It doesn't get any cooler than that. Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Dilma Rousseff "I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, 'Yes, women can.'" Brazil's first female president is currently facing impeachment for "fiscal irresponsibility," but her appointment to the highest position in government in her country has been helping to give women a voice since 2010. While the country's economy has faltered more recently, in 2012, the country overtook the UK to become the sixth largest in the world. Rousseff has launched numerous anti-poverty programs and has been conscientiously tackling misogynistic attitudes in the country. Credit: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images

Beyoncé Knowles "Power is not given to you. You have to take it." When your nickname is Queen Bey, you know the world is watching your every move and hanging on your every word. Beyoncé  has become a byword for female fierceness and fabulousness, and with an estimated $250 million to her name, she's just getting started. #runtheworldgirls Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Nemat Shafik "The combination of empirical scientific rigour but at the same time being more human and earthy were a big part of my upbringing." The very impressive Egyptian-born Nemat Shafik became the first-ever Deputy Governor of the Bank of England in 2014, where she oversees markets and banking. Known by her nickname Minouche, she was previously the World Bank's youngest-ever vice president at 36 and managed the IMF from 2011-2014. Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon "I just want to shake things up a wee bit." The Deputy First Minister of Scotland and deputy leader of the SNP led her party to a historic landslide win in 2015, when the SNP took 56 out of 59 seats. Described as the "woman of the moment" by the judging panel of BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour Power list - she came out on top - promoting gender-equality has also been a major part of her agenda, and the 50/50 gender-equal cabinet which kicked off her career as First Minister proved that she practices what she preaches. Credit: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Vivienne Westwood "My main point, though, is quality rather than quantity. What I’m always trying to say is: buy less, choose well, make it last." One of the pioneers of the punk movement, Vivienne Westwood has been a leading force in the fashion world for almost five decades. An outspoken critic of the fashion industry's wasteful processes, she champions sustainability and is passionate about raising awareness of climate change. Credit: Francois G. Durand/Wireimage