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Washington’s 100 Most Powerful Women
Comments () | Published October 3, 2011

On the Hill

Michele Bachmann
US congresswoman. The Minnesota Republican and Tea Party standard-bearer has helped push Hill debate to the right.

Elise Bean
Staff director/chief counsel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s permanent subcommittee on investigations. Leads a team of investigators that sent shock waves through Goldman Sachs, among other targets.

Barbara Mikulski
US senator. The Maryland Democrat and dean of Senate women has made women’s health and Maryland jobs top priorities—it’s no accident that Fort Meade is home to the US Cyber Command.

Mary Naylor
Majority staff director, Senate Budget Committee. As head of the majority staff on this vital committee, Naylor was in a key position during the debt-ceiling battle.

Nancy Pelosi
Minority leader, US House of Representatives. The California Democrat’s backbone helped prevent the President from caving on provisions of health-care reform, and she was the only woman in the room during the debt-crisis talks.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chair, Democratic National Committee. The President tapped the Florida congresswoman for the post because of her fundraising savvy and political clout in her swing state.

International Powers

Rima Al-Sabah
Philanthropist and wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Her annual Kuwait-America Foundation dinner is a coveted invitation. Last year, it raised nearly $3 million for the USO’s Operation Enduring Care.

Chan Heng Chee
Ambassador to the US from Singapore. Is one of the longest-serving ambassadors here, an award-winning author, and part of Washington’s foreign-policy intelligentsia. She has served on the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the International Council of the Asia Society.

Mary Kay Henry
International president, Service Employees International Union. The first woman to head the nation’s fastest-growing union made her bones organizing nursing-home employees in California.

Christine Lagarde
Managing director, International Monetary Fund. The former French finance minister spent a year in Bethesda as a high-school exchange student at Holton-Arms. She returned to Washington in July to head the IMF and plunged immediately into the European financial crisis.

Jessica Tuchman Mathews
President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Has headed the prestigious foreign-policy think tank since 1997. Carnegie’s influence has global reach.

Farah Pandith
Special representative to Muslim communities for the State Department. Has the task of changing perceptions abroad about American attitudes toward Islam. With some 20 million Muslims in Western Europe alone, her portfolio is huge and critical to US global interests.

Advocacy and Nonprofits

Nancy Brinker
Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Was protocol chief under President George W. Bush, but she’s kept the breast-cancer campaign pink rather than red or blue. Komen has put $28 million into DC-area programs—$4.5 million in 2011 alone.

Rose Ann Cleveland
Executive director, Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and chair, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers. Cafritz keeps many local arts and humanities groups alive.

Carol Thompson Cole
President and CEO, Venture Philanthropy Partners. Her community and government experience and her interpersonal skills make Cole the ideal go-between for the hard-charging entrepreneurial funders of VPP and the nonprofits that receive VPP investment funds.

Terri Lee Freeman
President of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Inspires local philanthropists to put their money where the needs are.

Nicky Goren
President of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. Is a catalyst for increasing local philanthropy by and for local women.

Janet Murguía
President and CEO, National Council of La Raza. The largest national Hispanic civil-rights and advocacy organization in the United States.

Karen Narasaki
President and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. Is a seasoned civil-rights leader whose network goes far beyond Asian communities.

Catherine Reynolds
President of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. Made her fortune in the student-loan business and has donated millions to the Kennedy Center.

Julie Rogers
President of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation. Does more than give away money—she has taught grantsmanship and fostered collaboration among local nonprofit leaders as a way of helping their organizations survive.

Health and Medicine

M. Joy Drass
Executive vice president of operations for MedStar Health for the Washington region. Is in charge of the area’s MedStar facilities, including Washington Hospital Center, Georgetown University Hospital, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Montgomery General, and more.

Alissa Fox
Senior vice president of the Office of Policy and Representation of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Leads lobbying and policy activities for the 39 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies nationwide.

Patricia A. Grady
Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, has more than doubled NINR’s budget since 1995—recognition of the increasing importance of nurses in the delivery of heath care.

Karen Ignagni
President and CEO, America’s Health Insurance Plans. Head since 2003 of the influential association of companies that offer health, dental, disability, and long-term-care coverage, Ignagni turned from tentative ally in President Obama’s health-care-reform campaign to adamant opponent.

Marilyn J. Kawamura
President, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States. When Kawamura took over in 2000, Kaiser was losing money and market share. The former nurse has administered fiscal remedies and a dose of electronic innovations.

Story Landis
Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Oversees an annual budget of $1.6 billion, cochairs an NIH initiative on brain sciences, and chairs the NIH Stem Cell Task Force.

Gail McGovern
President and CEO of the American Red Cross. Took office three years ago, after the disaster-relief organization suffered a series of in-house disasters, and has revived confidence in the organization’s ability to cope.

Nora Volkow
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse. A neuroscientist who is also the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky, Volkow is laser-focused on dopamine, the key chemical governing addictions ranging from cocaine to chocolate. Her biggest challenge: growing abuse of prescription drugs.


Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, is the first woman elected to Washington’s actual bully pulpit. She’ll be installed in November.


Maureen Dowd
Columnist for the New York Times. Can still get the town talking.

Betsy Fischer
Executive producer of NBC’s Meet the Press. Is most likely to snag the “big get” on Sunday morning.

Paula A. Kerger
President and CEO of PBS, heads programming, the foundation, and lobbying activities for the public-broadcasting system. Since she arrived from New York in 2006, there’s been less heat over content but she’s had to fight congressional threats to cut off public funding.

Debra L. Lee
Chairman and CEO, BET Holdings. Under her leadership, the house that Bob Johnson built has grown both programmatically and financially.

Gracia Martore
President and CEO, Gannett. A former banker, Martore is testing new revenue streams for USA Today and other Gannett papers as advertising dollars shrink.

Diane Rehm
Talk-show host, NPR. Her reputation for fairness and civility has made her show a mecca for top authors and opinion leaders.

Sharon Percy Rockefeller
President and CEO, WETA. Thanks to Ken Burns, PBS NewsHour, and other Washington-based programming, WETA’s TV and radio stations remain crucial public-broadcasting hubs.

Katharine Weymouth
CEO of Washington Post Media and publisher of the Washington Post. Is working to keep the family business viable as a multi-platform media power.

Linda Winslow
Executive producer, PBS NewsHour. With Jim Lehrer, she revamped the show two years ago. By adding more arts and science coverage and emphasizing Web content, she’s helped it stay ahead of the game.

Arts and Letters

Elizabeth Broun
Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Is responsible for the premier collection of US art. She created the first art-conservation facility that lets the public see behind-the-scenes preservation.

Johnnetta B. Cole
Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Is former president of Spelman College. Sometimes it seems the sheer force of her personality keeps this underground treasure of a museum from being overshadowed by the Smithsonian’s larger and more visible components.

Monica Jeffries Hazangeles
President, Strathmore Hall Foundation. While founder Eliot Pfanstiehl does the “vision thing,” Hazangeles oversees Strathmore’s performances and education programs. Strathmore is the Washington home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, whose music director, Marin Alsop, is the country’s foremost woman conductor.

Wilhelmina Cole Holladay
Founder and chairman of the board of trustees of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Her private collection is the heart of the museum—is a cultural visionary who created an institution that’s a venue for revenue-producing events as well as art exhibits.

Jaylee Mead
Theater philanthropist. She and her late husband, Gilbert, made the Washington-area theater-building boom possible.

Victoria P. Sant
President of the board of trustees of the National Gallery of Art, is a major philanthropic force in the area, involved in Vital Voices, the Community Foundation, and the Summit Foundation.

Molly Smith
Artistic director, Arena Stage. After the opening of Arena’s spectacular new theater and a very successful season, she’s the reigning queen of the DC theater scene.

Patricia Stonesifer
Chair of the board of regents of the Smithsonian Institution, took office after controversial secretary Lawrence Small departed. Stonesifer, former head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is focusing on rebuilding respect for the institution as well as the size of its endowment.

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. 


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