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Women in Washington / PEOPLE

25 Most Influential Women in Washington -- PICTURES

July 13, 2012

Washington is a town obsessed with power—how it's gained, how it's used, and especially who wields it. A National Journal panel of reporters and editors has compiled a highly unscientific list of Washington's 25 most influential women. Read more about each of the 25 and our see our full coverage of Women in Washington.

In five years, Heather Podesta, 42, has grown her law firm into a Washington powerhouse, advising clients like Eli Lilly and Cigna. Podesta has also become a major political player, bundling money for Democratic candidates around the country.(Richard A. Bloom)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 64, is the most powerful woman in Washington. Clinton will step down at the end of this term, and her future plans are the subject of much speculation.(Chet Susslin)

As a little girl Jackie Calmes, 57, planned to be the first woman president. As The New York Times' White House correspondent, she has covered three administrations.(Chet Susslin)


Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., 79, enjoys both strong support in her state and the influence that comes with chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee.(Liz Lynch)

American Insurance Association President Leigh Ann Pusey learned the art of political communication as a Republican operative in the 1990s and helped the commercial-property-insurance industry escape regulation under 2010's Dodd-Frank law.(Richard A. Bloom)

Lisa Jackson, 50, the first African-American head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has pressed ahead with tougher pollution and fuel-efficiency standards even as her agency has faced Republican charges of overregulation.(Chet Susslin)


As chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,Sharon Soderstrom, 52, is a central player in what critics dub the GOP's "war on women." Says predecessor Kyle Simmons, "No one knows more about the Senate."(Richard A. Bloom)

Karen Ignagni, 58, the CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, scored a major victory last month when the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, a provision she helped push for that is expected to bring her industry an estimated $1 trillion in revenue through 2020.(Richard A. Bloom)

As president of the Republican Lawyers Association, Cleta Mitchell, 61, is the go-to legal advisor for conservative candidates, lobbyists, and fundraisers. The tea party, she said, restored her faith in America.(Lauren Carroll)


At 52, Elena Kagan is the youngest Supreme Court justice. In two years of service, Kagan has had great influence as a swing voter.(Richard A. Bloom)

As a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, Beth Myers, 55, has been described as "almost family" to the presumptive Republican nominee for president. She is leading the campaign's search for a vice presidential nominee.(AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

Mary Kay Henry, 54, the first female president of the Service Employees International Union, has used her position to forge a more united labor movement with other national unions.(Chet Susslin)


Assuming the presidency of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the tumultuous post-Bernie Madoff era, Mary Schapiro, 57, was tasked with restoring the public's faith in the institution. Last year, the SEC brought a record number of enforcement actions.(Chet Susslin)

Public-opinion polls have consistently shown first lady Michelle Obama, 48, to be more popular than her husband. She has championed campaigns to curb childhood obesity and improve job opportunities for veterans.(Chet Susslin)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is the highest-ranking woman in the House GOP leadership, and says raising her two children has made her a better representative. She gave birth to both while in office.(Richard A. Bloom)


Candi Wolff uses her eight years in the Senate and three years as President George W. Bush's top legislative aid to navigate the relationship between Citigroup—where she serves as executive vice president of global and government affairs—and the federal, local, and state governments.(Richard A. Bloom)

Beth Wilkinson, 49, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, has never lost a case. She's been hired by the FTC to investigate Google for anticompetitive behavior.(Lauren Carroll)

Susan Molinari, 54, heads Google's Washington office. As a Republican U.S. representative in the 1990s, she learned how to navigate a male-dominated environment.(Chet Susslin)


Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, 55, was appointed to the Senate by her father, then-Gov. Frank Murkowksi. Since then, she has earned a reputation as a maverick and deal-maker in the upper chamber.(Chet Susslin)

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., 59, is the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is a former staffer.(Richard A. Bloom)

Leslie Hortum, 54, a manager at Spencer Stuart, has helped place some of Washington's most influential lobbyists. She got used to male-dominated environments while working for the American Trucking Association.(Richard A. Bloom)


Planned Parenthood leader Cecile Richards, 53, has more than doubled the organization's membership over her tenure.(Richard A. Bloom)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., became perhaps the most powerful female elected official in history when she won the House speakership in 2007. Despite speculation, the 72-year-old grandmother has given no indication that she plans to retire.(Chet Susslin)

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, 54, oversees 22 government agencies. At DHS meetings, she is often the only woman in the room.(Chet Susslin)


Neera Tanden, 41, led President Obama's negotiations with Congress on the Affordable Care Act. She is president of the Center for American Progress, which she calls an "action tank."(Richard A. Bloom)

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