Forbes Addresses Lack of Women on “Most Innovative Leaders” List

The list of 100 innovative CEOs included just one woman

Forbes Addresses Lack of Women on “Most Innovative Leaders” List
By Bonnie Stiernberg / September 8, 2019 4:23 pm

Forbes stirred up some controversy this weekend with the release of its list of America’s Most Innovative Leaders, which included just one woman — Barbara Rentler of Ross Stores, who was ranked No. 75 — out of the 100 CEOs it featured. On Sunday (Sept. 8th), chief content officer Randall Lane addressed the list’s gender disparity in a post entitled “Opportunity Missed: Reflecting on the Lack of Women on Our Most Innovative Leaders List.”

Lane reiterated that the list was not subjective and was rooted in a data-driven methodology. “In the case of the new innovative leaders ranking, we’ve been honing its methodology for years, through our Most Innovative Companies list, in partnership with professors at BYU and INSEAD, who have pioneered the idea of an ‘innovator’s premium’ – publicly-traded companies valued at a number beyond what their mere financial performance justifies,” he wrote. “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.”

However, Lane admits that pool proved problematic because “women, as we all know, 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. In other words, for all our carefully-calibrated methodology, women never had much of a chance here.”

He promised that “a rethink” of the list is on the company’s to-do list and admitted that the methodology was flawed “at a minimum when it came to being more expansive with who was eligible to be ranked.”

“While each data point individually made logical sense, as did focusing on data-rich public companies, the entire exercise collapses if the possible ranking pool doesn’t correlate at least somewhat with the overall pool of innovative talent,” he concluded. “It would be intellectually dishonest to construct a methodology designed to generate a pre-determined result, but in this case, the forest got lost in the trees.”

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