Women of the World: The world's most powerful woman
Editor's Note: PokerStars Women provides an arena that allows women to comfortably enter the world of poker, a game traditionally dominated and influenced by men. Through the last few decades, women have become a force in the game, but it hasn't always been easy. This series - "Women of the World" - focuses on women outside of poker who boldly step into positions conventionally reserved for men and, in doing so, help pave a path toward greater gender equality in the world.
How does it feel to be the most powerful woman in the world? Not exactly a question I ask myself every day when I wake up, but for Angela Merkel, it may be. The German Chancellor, age 58, is not only the first female in that position, but perhaps more importantly, throughout the last five years, she has been charged with leading the European Union in efforts to support the 27-member common currency against bank failures and devaluation.
For seven out of the last 10 years, Merkel has been ranked number one on Forbes magazine's list of "Most Powerful Women in the World."
The daughter of a Lutheran minister and a teacher, she was reelected for a third term as chancellor in September. Her first term came in 2005 as a result of the first democratic elections in that country, with Merkel becoming the spokesperson for a reunited Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Merkel holds a doctorate in physics and worked as a chemist in theoretical chemistry. She is also fluent in German, Russian, and English. In a BBC documentary, "The Making of Merkel," she was characterized as "gifted" and possessing an "extraordinary intelligence" in math and physics.
Merkel's leadership has effectively challenged the formerly male-dominated conservative leadership and has brought a successful free-market economic approach to a formerly highly-regulated system. During her first two terms as Chancellor, Germany held an enviable position as the most economically successful nation in the Union and was called upon to help bail out some other countries that were struggling to maintain solvency. For many, the quiet and unassuming Merkel seems an unlikely leader in a debt crisis that resulted in riots and widespread resentment across Europe. Greece and Spain, in particular, have struggled to implement the hard-line austerity measures that have become necessary as part of the agreement.
The popular poker maxim "keeping her cards close to her chest" has been used by political observers as being characteristic of Merkel. She has been said to "never reveal too much" and is often found pouring through research and statistics at meetings instead of taking part in the bombastic disagreements and posturings typical in political circles. As a result, some of her detractors call her "a mousy German house frau" while others call her the "Iron Chancellor" after Margaret Thatcher, who led a similar political upheaval in Britain.
In this time of economic turmoil around the world, Merkel's leadership has been a voice of reason during a period more often characterized by fear and confusion. Instead of political verbosity, she has led with purpose and calm. Her ability to analyze and make decisions based on facts and research have made her successful in politics and would serve her well in the arena we more often focus on here in these pages. Like Liv Boeree, Vanessa Selbst, Vanessa Rousso and others often profiled by PokerStars Women, her academic background has grounded her in an approach based on problem solving rather than emotion.
Merkel's most recent efforts have been focused on tax reform and improving the German healthcare system. She has stated in interviews that she is interested in political leadership because she wants to give back to the country that has given her so much.
In this era of political divisiveness, her purpose-driven approach is one that many politicians around the world could benefit from emulating.
And as always, for all the latest news, interviews, and promotions for women in poker, see our PokerStars Women home page.