But in the corporate world, the notion of "18 million cracks" remains something of a pipe dream. While women have made great strides professionally in the past two decades, their numbers in the upper echelons of corporate America have stagnated in the past few years.
On Wall Street -- possibly the toughest ceiling to crack -- two of the most high-profile women made an exit in the past year: Citigroup's Sallie Krawcheck and Morgan Stanley's Zoe Cruz.
But out of the ashes of the economic meltdown, some new stars have emerged -- most notably Sheila Bair, No. 1 on this year's Women to Watch list, who has been thrust into the spotlight in her bank-rescue role as a hard-charging regulator at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Barbara Desoer, No. 3 on this year's list, has risen to a pivotal role at Bank of America as president of mortgage, home equity and insurance services.
Beyond the financial world, faces new to the corner office include Ellen Kullman, who is taking the CEO reins of DuPont after spending two decades climbing the ranks of the chemicals maker. Oil-industry veteran Lynn Laverty Elsenhans has been plucked to lead Philadelphia refiner Sunoco. Padmasree Warrior, meanwhile, jumped from Motorola to take a key executive post at Cisco Systems.