Seven women who shaped the world in 2011

Women played some significant roles this past year, from making peace to crafting economic policy in the midst of a crisis. Here are seven who shaped 2011:

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany

Odd Andersen/Reuters

Running the country with the fourth largest gross domestic product in the world is reason enough to be deemed one of the most prominent women in the world. But as the European Union struggles to contain its debt crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also become the de facto leader of the eurozone. Because of Germany’s economic strength, no eurozone decisions can be made without her support.

Le Monde reports that in a recent poll in France, 46 percent of people reported having more confidence in Ms. Merkel’s leadership and ability to avoid a future financial crises than they do in that of their own president, Nicolas Sarkozy (33 percent).

In 2011, several EU member countries faced the collapse of their financial institutions, high government debt, and rapidly rising borrowing costs. Merkel was faced with the challenge of finding a balance between pressure from within Germany not to fund future economic bailouts and calls from other EU countries to provide further assistance. Throughout the crisis, Merkel has urged fiscal discipline and demanded leadership changes and austerity measures in countries like Italy and Greece.

If the eurozone survives this turbulent period, Merkel will be lauded as the heroine that saved the European Union.

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