Who Runs the World? These Are the Most Powerful Women in U.S. Politics

As of January 2019, there are 102 women in the U.S. House of Representatives. While women account for just 23.4% of the total U.S. Reps, women are running for office (and winning) in unprecedented numbers. Whether Democrat or Republican, their power feels more palpable than ever. From newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to seasoned political pros like Nancy Pelosi, these women are the leading voices in Washington D.C. and beyond and are here to remind us who really runs the world.

Is Nancy Pelosi the most powerful woman in U.S. politics?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is a Rising National Power

alexandria ocasio-cortez
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves when she defeated Rep. Joe Crowley in the New York primary in June 2018 with 57.13% of the vote. The Democratic Socialist is a political newbie so her win against Crowley, one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress, was shocking. Just five months later, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at 29 years old.

The Latina and Bronx native campaigned on a deeply progressive platform which included abolishing ICE, supporting single-payer healthcare, infrastructure projects for renewable energy, and a 70% marginal tax rate for incomes above $10 million. While Ocasio-Cortez seems to be under constant scrutiny for her views, there’s no doubt that she’s a rising national power and her influence (particularly among young liberals) shouldn’t be ignored.

The democratic party may be yearning for fresh political leadership, but Hillary Clinton is still fighting for democracy.

Hillary Clinton Continues to Fight for Democracy

hillary clinton
Andrew Chin/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton made history in 2001 when she became the first American First Lady to win a public seat in office. She went on to become the 67th U.S. secretary of state in 2009, a position she held through 2013.

Two years later she announced her plans to run for the presidency and made history as the first U.S. woman to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. Although she lost the controversial election, she continues to fight for democracy. In 2017, she founded a new political action committee, Onward Together, which she says is “dedicated to advancing the progressive vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Always at the Forefront of Feminist Issues

ruth bader ginsburg
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been an unsung pioneer in the feminist movement for decades. At just 22 years old, she enrolled Harvard Law School where she was one of only nine women in a class of 500. She earned her Juris Doctor degree after transferring to Columbia University and began what would be a lifelong career in law.

Ginsburg was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia Circuit in 1980 — a position she held until 1993 when she was nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court. Always at the forefront of issues involving women, Ginsburg has spent a significant part of her career advocating for gender equality and women’s rights. At 85 years old, she has no plans to retire anytime soon.

Ivanka Trump added ‘Senior Advisor’ to her resume in 2017.

Ivanka Trump Is Senior Advisor to the POTUS

ivanka trump
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ivanka Trump knows how to shift gears and her resume proves it. Before she was the first daughter of the President of the United States, Ivanka was a businesswoman, fashion designer, author, and reality television personality.

After Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, Ivanka resumed what some called a ‘quasi-First Lady’ role. It wasn’t long before she became an official government employee as senior advisor to the POTUS. While it’s hard to tell just how much influence she has, she continues to advocate for paid family leave and has spoken out against policies including forced separation of families at the border.

Michelle Obama Continues to Fight for What She Believes In

michelle obama
Anda Chu/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Michelle Obama served as First Lady from 2009 to 2017 and was the first African-American to hold the title. While First Lady, Obama served as a role model for young girls and women everywhere, working tirelessly to advocate for things like poverty awareness, education, and LGBTQ rights.

Causes particularly close to her heart were nutrition and physical activity. In 2010, she led the administration-wide initiative, which she named “Let’s Move!” to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. Since leaving the White House, Obama continues to fight for what she believes in and has publicly rebuked the Trump administration for its delay of a federal requirement which would improve school lunch nutritional standards.

Sonia Sotomayor Is the First Latina Justice to Serve on the Supreme Court

sonia sotomayor
Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Justice to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. She was nominated to the U.S. District Court of New York in 1991 where served through 1997 until she was nominated by Bill Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Here she heard appeals in more than 3,000 cases and wrote nearly 400 opinions where she was in the majority.

In 2009, Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, where she continues to serve today. She’s spent a significant part of her career advocating for reform of the criminal justice system and gender and racial equality, serving on numerous notable cases.

Elena Kagan Has Sided With the Majority in Landmark Supreme Court Rulings

elena kagan
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Elena Kagan was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 2009, making her the fourth woman to sit on the high court. She made history again in 2015 when she sided with the majority in two landmark Supreme Court rulings.

She was instrumental in the ruling in King v. Burwell, which allows the federal government to continue providing subsidies to Americans who purchase health care through "exchanges." At the time, this was a critical component of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and considered a huge victory for then-President Barack Obama. Kagan also joined the majority ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

Up next, this New York Rep. is a fierce supporter of women.

Kirsten Gillibrand Is a Fierce Supporter of Women’s Rights

kirsten gillibrand
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Kirsten Gillibrand served as a Representative for New York’s 20th congressional district before she was appointed a U.S. Senator in 2010. A fierce supporter of women’s rights, she’s known for being outspoken on sexual harassment as well as sexual assault in the military.

She strongly criticized fellow Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Franken for sexual misconduct and even released a memoir that revealed a culture of sexism in the Senate. In January 2019, Gillibrand hinted that she may run for president in 2020. Whether or not she moves forward with her campaign, Gillibrand will be a powerful female voice in politics for years to come.

Nancy Pelosi Is the Most Powerful Woman in U.S. Politics

nancy pelosi
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

In 2007, Nancy Pelosi made history as the first woman to be elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2019, she did it again, reclaiming the speaker’s gavel which she lost eight years ago. During her opening speech to a new Congress, she noted that she is “particularly proud to take the gavel with a record number of women lawmakers on Capitol Hill.”

As the new speaker in the #MeToo era, Pelosi represents the rise in influence women have on the nation’s political process. She is without a doubt one of the savviest political leaders of her generation and has been described as the most powerful woman in U.S. politics.

Kellyanne Conway Has Held Onto Her Power Despite “Alternative” Facts

kellyanne conway
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has been in the polling business since she was in law school. She founded her own firm, the Polling Company, in 1995 and worked alongside other well-known conservative women like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham. These women became known for turning punditry into "stylish stardom."

Conway continued to work in the polling business but shifted to advising, working with the likes of Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz and eventually Donald Trump. She was hired on as a senior advisor during Trump’s presidential campaign, which she led to a surprise victory. These days she spends her time in the White House as a counselor to the POTUS. Although Conway has had her share of missteps in recent years (alternative facts anyone?), she’s still managed to hold onto her power.

Betsy DeVos Holds Power, Despite Her Controversial Confirmation

betsy devos
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Betsy DeVos is currently the U.S. Secretary of Education. A Republican, DeVos is known for supporting school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools. Although she was confirmed in February 2017, DeVos’ nomination was strongly opposed by Democrats. She was confirmed by a 51–50 margin, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. This marked the first time in U.S. history that the Vice President decided the confirmation in a tiebreaking vote.

While it’s not entirely clear just how much power DeVos has, it’s safe to say that she can influence the way American children are taught.

Elise Stefanik may be young, but she demands respect.

Elise Stefanik Doesn’t Need Permission to Make Change

elise stefanik
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

At 30 years old, Elise Stefanik is the second-youngest women ever elected to Congress, right behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While in the House, the Republican Rep. has voted to loosen gun control, repeal Obamacare, and expand federal Pell grants for students with low incomes.

Stefanik is highly invested in getting more women in Congress and her efforts to diversify the Republican caucus from male colleagues has resulted in defiance from some. Not one to let a little opposition get in her way, Stefanik has said she “wasn’t asking permission” to make change.

Stacey Abrams Is a Powerful Voice In U.S. Politics

stacey abrams
Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Stacey Abrams served as the Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives between 2011 and 2017. A Democrat, Abrams was her party’s nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, the first African American female nominee in the history of the United States.

Although Abrams narrowly lost the election, she remains a powerful voice in U.S. politics. She is pro-choice, supports expanded gun control, and opposes stricter voter ID laws as she believes they deprive minorities and low-income citizens.

Susan Collins Is an Influential Player in the U.S. Senate

susan collins
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Susan Collins is the senior U.S. Senator from Maine. Although Collins is a Republican, she is considered a centrist member. She was one of just five Republicans to oppose Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and has stated that she supports an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

As a Republican who is a pro-life and same-sex marriage supporter, Collins holds a unique position in politics. She is ultimately a highly influential player in the U.S. Senate, especially among fellow centrists and women.

This next powerful woman is running for president in 2020.

Kamala Harris Is Running for President In 2020

kamala harris
Al Drago/Getty Images

Currently serving as the junior U.S. Senator from California, Kamala Harris is a woman to watch. Harris previously served as the Attorney General of California as well as a District Attorney of San Francisco before becoming a U.S. Senator.

Throughout her career, Harris has supported the legalization of recreational marijuana, sanctuary cities, Medicare-for-all, and lowering taxes for the working and middle class families. On January 27, 2019, Harris formally announced her run for president in the 2020 election.

Sarah Palin Is Still an Influential Political Figure

sarah palin
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Sarah Palin served as the ninth governor of Alaska from 2006 to 2009 and was the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 2008 election. Although she didn’t win, Palin was the first Alaskan on the national ticket of a major political party as well as the first Republican woman to be a VP candidate.

While it’s unlikely that Sarah Palin will run for office again, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee is still influential in the world of politics. Palin supported Donald Trump early on in his candidacy and remains close to him today.

Elizabeth Warren May Run for President In 2020

elizabeth warren
JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren serves as the senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, a position she’s held since 2013. Warren is a prominent scholar who specializes in bankruptcy law and is known for her progressive politics and populist views on the economy.

Although she was criticized for falsifying her Native American heritage, Warren remains an influential figure in the U.S. Senate. In September 2018, Warren announced that she is taking “a hard look” at running for president in 2020.

Elaine Chao Is Half of a Washington Power Couple

elaine chao
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Elaine Chao is the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Born in Taipei, Chao immigrated to the United States when she was eight years old. She was appointed to the Department of Transportation under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1989, a position she held for two years. She is the first Chinese-American to serve in a federal Cabinet.

Her husband, Mitch McConnell, is Senate Majority Leader, making Chao and McConnell one of the most powerful couples in Washington.

Marsha Blackburn Says She’s a “Hard-Core, Card-Carrying Tennessee Conservative”

marsha blackburn
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

After defeating Phil Bredesen in the 2018 election, Marsha Blackburn became the first woman from Tennessee to be elected to the U.S. Senate. As a founding member of the Williamson County Young Republicans, Blackburn has been working in politics since the late ’80s.

She’s known for her deeply conservative views and has even described herself as a “hard-core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.” She staunchly opposes abortion, rejects the theory of evolution, and opposes the Affordable Care Act.

Lisa Murkowski Is the Second Most Senior Republican Woman in the Senate

lisa murkowski
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Serving as the senior U.S. Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski has been in office for 17 years. Murkowski is a crucial swing voter and although she is Republican, she holds many moderate views. While she voted against a partial ban of select firearms, she is also generally pro-choice and does not want to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Murkowski was one of just seven Republicans who voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act without a proper replacement plan and she voted ‘No’ on the Health Care Freedom Act, which was labeled as the ‘Skinny’ repeal of the ACA.