How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

New jobs for Powerful Women

January 25, 2010: 3:52 PM ET

Lots of Most Powerful Women—the stars of Fortune's annual list--are moving up and making news. You know about Kraft Foods (KFT) CEO Irene Rosenfeld snagging Cadbury (CBY), the British candy giant, last week after a messy, multi-month battle. With her heftiest shareholder, Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) CEO Warren Buffett, skeptical about the deal, Rosenfeld has plenty to prove. But assuming it goes through, the acquisition will make Kraft larger than PepsiCo (PEP)--which is led by Fortune's No. 1 MPWoman, Indra Nooyi.

Meanwhile, a few less-noticed but noteworthy moves by Fortune MPWomen:

Charlene Begley, the youngest woman ever to make it to SVP at General Electric (GE), scored again this month. She moved from the top job at GE Enterprise Solutions, a $4 billion business, to the No. 1 position at newly named GE Home & Business Solutions, with $10 billion in annual revenues. Her new job puts her in charge of Appliances & Lighting, Intelligent Platforms and Security--and many of GE's green efforts, which are a prime focus of CEO Jeff Immelt. Begley, 43, reports to Immelt and is overseeing 35,000 employees.She was No. 27 on Fortune's MPWomen list last year, but will likely move up this year.

Then there's Jan Fields, No. 32 in the 2009 MPWomen rankings. She's been promoted from COO of McDonald's (MCD) U.S. business to CEO of that giant division.

Knowing Fields' background, you wouldn't have bet on her rise to the top. The seventh of eight children born to a car dealer in Vincennes, Indiana, she paid her own way through local community colleges. "I stumbled upon McDonald's as I was looking for a job to help pay for college," she says.

Fields began behind the counter at a Dayton, Ohio McDonald's in 1978, at 23. No, she never graduated from college. But she found the right career path. "I would not be as successful as I have been had it not been my early days of learning the ropes," she says. "I'm humbled that a girl that started working as crew cooking french fires could become the U.S. President. Only at McDonald's!"

Another woman to watch—though it's not easy, since she stays under the radar more than any other woman on the Most Powerful list: Abby Johnson, the billionaire daughter of Fidelity Investments boss Edward C. "Ned" Johnson. Last week, Ned's No. 2, Rodger Lawson announced plans to leave, reviving speculation that Abby, 48, will step up and eventually succeed her 79-year-old father. I've written about the soap opera at Fidelity, though not in a while. The Boston Globe is covering the story. If you have insights to share, drop me a line or a comment. Do you think that Abby, No. 28 on Fortune's MPWomen list, is likely--and suited--to lead the mighty Fidelity?

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