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Forbes Faces Backlash After List Of 100 Innovators Only Features One Woman

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images, Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Forbes just rolled out their list of America’s 100 “Most Innovative Leaders,” and only one of them is a woman.

Tying for number one on the list were Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, 55, and Tesla founder Elon Musk, 48.

Ross Stores CEO Barbara Rentler, 61, is the lone female representative in the rankings. Out of ONE HUNDRED.

She placed at number 75 on the list.

Rentler started with New York-based Ross in 1986, holding various merchandising positions before being promoted to Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager after sixteen years.

In 2004, she was promoted to Senior Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer before being named as the Executive Vice President of Merchandising in 2006.

She continued climbing the corporate ladder and officially became the 25th CEO of Ross Stores on June 1, 2014, after the former CEO, Michael Balmuth, retired.

Adding insult to injury, a photo of her was not even included in the Forbes list.

Someone else did the arduous honors of googling on behalf of Forbes.

According to Money Inc, however, Rentler prefers keeping a low profile, which could explain the lack of a photo.

When Fortune Magazine chose to highlight her among remarkable women in key leadership roles, she refused to provide basic information, including her education background and personal information.

Many people, including author Anand Giridharadas, were confounded over the lack of a female presence among innovative leaders in Forbes‘ list.

On Twitter, Giridharadas observed that “there are twice as many men named Stanley as there are women of any name. And there are only two Stanleys.”

He continued:

“When a publication like @Forbes has so many eyes on an article and it goes out with this grievous an error in judgment, it shows how so much of the current leadership class needs to go, frankly.”

“These are the editors deciding what and who to publish, what stories to tell.”

There was some confusion as to whether a separate gender list was available.

Newsflash: there wasn’t.


But some still saw it as an opportunity to congratulate Rentler on her position on the list.

Forbes editor Randall Lane explained that despite the list results putting people off, himself included, it was culled through “data-driven exercises” where they “determine a methodology, crunch the numbers and let the chips fall where they may.”

“As ‘Forbes’ has always championed the individual leader rather than the faceless corporation, we worked with the same team of professors to tailor that methodology to CEOs, incorporating the innovator’s premium above, and adding measurable tools (quantitative reputation, social capital, publicly-traded track record).”

He added:

“And we then applied that methodology to the CEOs or founders of the largest public companies – mostly those worth $10 billion or more of those growing quickly, which skews toward healthcare and tech.”

“In this case, we should have…delved into the larger problem of women ascending to CEO. We own that.”

Lane conceded that “women never had much of a chance here” as they are poorly represented at the “top of the largest corporations (just 5% of the S&P 500) and fare even worse among growing public tech companies.”

Leah McGowen-Hare, the vice president of Trailforce, Salesforce’s educational library division, also pointed out another glaring omission on the list.

There were only three Latino men and not a single African-American represented.


Perhaps it’s time for Forbes to step up and get more innovative with their list of innovative leaders because “leaders” shouldn’t be comprised primarily of white males in 2019.

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Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1