Fortune’s “40 Under 40″ Includes Just 6 Women — Here’s Why That’s Wrong
2:39 pm, October 20th | by Amy Tennery
Fortune magazine has released its “40 Under 40″ list today, charting “the hottest young stars in business across the globe.” It’s a seemingly subjective list that charts the people “you’re going to be working for” someday.
And we here at Mogulite take exception to this list. Why? Because just six of the people included are women.
What follows is an unedited Gchat conversation between Mogulite Associate Editor Hillary Reinsberg and myself, in which we debated the complexities of the gender politic:
me: fortune released its 40 under 40 list.
guess how many women were on it.
hint: it’s in the single digits.
me: and the highest ranking one is at NUMBER TWENTY
Hillary: that’s just dumb
super super dumb
Okay, we actually talked about it more than that. But you get the point.
Full disclosure: I went to an all-girls middle school, an all-girls high school and a women’s college. I wrote my senior thesis on feminist lit. And, yea, I tend to see things from a woman’s angle. Mogulite isn’t a “women’s blog” — but it is a blog written by two women. And owned by a guy who just wrote a book all about why women are better — at everything. So. If my critique here feels a little “obvious” it’s because it is. It’s a bias and an opinion and I can admit that. But if you’ll indulge me for a moment, here goes:
Seriously, guys?! Six women made it onto the list. And, in fact, only one woman made it into the top half… 36-year-old Google VP Marissa Mayer, who ranked a dismal 20th. For the record, that’s seven slots behind Ryan “KellyClarkson” Seacrest.
Why is this so important? Because it sets a dangerous precedent. Unlike the Forbes 400, which uses cut and dry figures, ignoring intangibles, this is a subjective list. This was a list for which people (presumably) sat down and decided who’s a rising star — and, more importantly, who’s worth knowing. And while you could shrug off other “power” lists, and argue that the last generation excluded women and that’s why there are fewer in CEO spots, this generation is supposed to be different. That’s what makes this ranking so powerful. “40 Under 40″ isn’t just a list — it’s a forecast.
There are more than six women under 40 who deserve mentioning. That should go without saying.
Even more perplexing is an addendum to Fortune’s list, called the “Ones to Watch.” That 18-person, unofficial ‘runners-up’ list includes numerous worthy contenders, like digital wunderkind Rachel Sterne, YYC Capital founder Brigette Roberts and One Kings Lane co-founder Ali Pincus, whose company reached a $100 million valuation this year. They are powerful. So why are they sitting at the kids’ table?
Unfortunately, Fortune isn’t alone in this. Vanity Fair’s so-called “New Establishment” ranking told us that only five women out of 50 are worth watching and suggested that Lady Gaga is the standard-bearer for empowered women. (At least, unlike other folks, they didn’t try to claim that she’s somehow more powerful than Janet Napolitano. No. Just no.).
Magazines print these pieces because readers love lists. Everyone does — you can quantify who matters, who doesn’t. You can say ‘this guy is number five and this guy is number eight.’ It’s satisfying. But that’s exactly why they’re so important. And when you say that women don’t rank, we’re all listening.