The model-singer added glamour to the role of First Lady when she married French president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008. Not content to be just a pretty face, Bruni-Sarkozy runs her own foundation to support education, and also stays active in AIDS research and animal-rights charities.
Le Pen has followed in the footsteps of her father to become president of the National Front, France’s right-wing extremist party. However, the politician’s softer approach has enabled her to succeed where her father did not: In mid-March, she surpassed current French president Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls, putting her in a strong position for France’s 2012 election.
As the current French Minister of Economic Affairs, Finances and Industry, Lagarde has earned praise for her work—the Financial Times ranked her the EU’s top minister of finance. Now, she’s in the spotlight as she was recently named the head of the IMF after the indictment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Royal was the first woman in France to be nominated as a presidential candidate for a major party. She may have lost to Sarkozy in 2007, but the single mother of four isn’t giving up—she’s already positioning herself to be the Socialist party’s presidential hopeful in 2012.
Estimated to be worth $23.5 billion, Bettencourt, the heir to the L’Oreal fortune, is one of the richest people in the world. The heiress is as generous as she is wealthy: Her Bettencourt Schueller Foundation pours millions of euros each year into scientific education and research, humanitarian and social projects, and culture and the arts.
The Paris-born designer got her first break working for Azzedine Alaia before starting her own menswear collection, Paul & Joe—named after her sons—in 1995. Since then, Albou has added lines for women, juniors, kids and more—even going overseas to America with a line for Target.
Before gaining worldwide recognition for her career as a writer, Guiliano built an impressive business empire as CEO of luxury goods company Clicquot, Inc. And she didn’t stop there. USA Today has dubbed her “the high priestess of French lady wisdom” for her international bestsellers, French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for all Seasons.
Born in America but raised in France, Alexandra Cousteau is the granddaughter of legendary explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. Her work as an advocate for conservation and restoration of water resources during the global water crisis earned her the 2011 Human Security Award at University of California, Irvine.
Named the ninth most powerful woman internationally by Forbes in 2009, Lauvergeon, the recently-replaced CEO of France’s state-owned nuclear firm Areva SA, faced her share of trouble during her ten year stint—including construction delays, arguments with customers and cost overruns.
In 2005, after noting a lack of women at the World Economic Forum, Zieseniss de Thuin founded what's referred to as the “Davos for Women,” a forum that provides a platform for women in business to share and debate their viewpoints on politics, economics, the environment and more.
Known as “the Grand Dame of Cognac,” Hériard Dubreuil serves as the CEO and Chairman of the Board for French alcohol manufacturer Remy Cointreau. With her background in public relations, Hériard Dubreuil doesn’t shy away from employing edgier tactics when promoting her products, such as Cointreau’s “Cointreauversial” campaign with burlesque performer Dita von Teese.
One of the first women to graduate from the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique, Senequier founded AXA Private Equity—now one of the largest private equity firms in Europe—15 years ago. Just last year she headed a major milestone deal: the purchase of Bank of America’s $1.9 billion portfolio of investments.
An administrator for many years in town planning, environment and transport, Idrac became the French Minister of Trade in 2008; she served as chairman of the SNCF—the national railway—until 2010. After 35 years in government, hasn’t she now serves on the boards of several companies and institutions.
As French Ambassador for science, technology and innovation, and former president of the National Center for Scientific Research, the nuclear physicist’s research over the last 40 years has been widely published and gained multiple high honors.
After vacationing in Tunisia in the midst of its revolution, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs received a lot of criticism for associating with contacts of the former Tunisian leader. The backlash led to her resignation in February.
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