The Five Most Powerful U.S. Businesswomen

What is power? Power has many definitions, from the ability to perform effectively, to exerting strength or force, to the ability to exercise control. Women have been fighting for power for centuries, and, as the following five women demonstrate, they exert power, strength and authority right along with their male counterparts. Probably the one place where women have made the largest strides is in the business world. Women are now chief executives, financial officers, and owners of multi-million dynasties. Meet the five most powerful women in the United States:

1. Margaret "Meg" Whitman, Chief Executive, eBay

As head of the world's largest on-line auction site, Margaret Whitman has kept eBay at the top of the on-line auction frenzy, consistently beating competitors Yahoo! and Amazon. During the second quarter alone, eBay reported net revenues of $1.086 billion, up 40% from the same time last year. How does she do it? By giving eBay's more than 100 million registered members from all over the world the safest and most user-friendly auction site possible. Whitman quickly disposes of any fake auctioneers and has problems fixed as soon as possible, helping make eBay the most popular shopping destination on the Internet. In addition, her personal holdings are valued at $1.6 billion, making Whitman one of the richest people in the world.

2. Anne Mulcahy, Chief Executive Officer, Xerox

After bringing Xerox back from a critical slump in 2002, Anne Mulcahy is working to put the printing giant back on top of the competition. And, with competitors like Dell, Hewlett Packard and Kodak, that is not an easy feat. Taking over the company in 2001, Mulcahy has given Xerox an overhaul, pulling the company's tagline, "The Document Company," to simply using the Xerox name, and consistently promoting its color printing and lucrative consulting services. No one probably knows the company better than Mulcahy - she started at Xerox as a field sales rep 30 years ago.

3. Sallie Krawcheck, Chief Financial Officer, Citigroup

Known as one of the most influential women on Wall Street, Sallie Krawcheck is regarded by many as one of Citigroup's next generation leaders. Formerly a highly-respected equities analyst for Sanford Bernstein, Krawcheck headed Smith Barney, the retail brokerage division of Citigroup, before rising to CFO of Citigroup. She has been credited with removing Citigroup's "dot-com taint" and restoring Citigroup's reputation, which had faced charges of "spinning" initial public offerings and biased stock recommendations.

4. Brenda Barnes, Chief Executive Officer, Sara Lee

New to the Sara Lee family, CEO Brenda Barnes has restructured the company and has planned to sell or spin off divisions with about $8.2 billion in revenue. Barnes was well-known for leaving her $2 million a year position at PepsiCo in 1998 to spend more time with her family, before joining Sara Lee as its Chief Operating Officer. In less than eight months, she was promoted to CEO.

5. Oprah Winfrey, Chairman of Harpo

With a net worth of more than $1 billion, Oprah Winfrey is more than just a powerful businesswoman; she is an influential advocate for the education and well-being of women and children around the globe. Winfrey has accomplishments in film, television and print, with an Academy Award nomination, her popular television show "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which airs in 112 countries, a successful magazine and the cable channel Oxygen Media. She is also a powerful philanthropist, giving to those in need through her Angel Network and her personal charity the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

Honorable Mentions

Two businesswomen who just missed the top five but are still powerful in their own right are philanthropist Melinda Gates and Lucent Technologies Chief Executive Patricia Russo. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates' other half, Melinda Gates, is Co-Founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an endowment of $28.8 billion created to fight for better health care and education for the poverty-stricken around the world, as well as at-risk families in WashingtonState and Oregon. Patricia Russo has led Lucent Technologies to its first profitable year since 2000. Returning to Lucent in 2002 after a brief stint with Eastman Kodak, she remains committed to producing top-quality equipment for wireless networks.

For a list of the top 100 most powerful businesswomen, humanitarians, politicians and women in the media from across the globe, visit www.forbes.com.