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You Don't Have to be a Woman to be Appalled by this Forbes List

Posted by Mike Mortellaro on Sep 18, 2019 11:40:14 AM

Congratulations to Barbara Rentler, CEO of Ross Stores on making the recently released Forbes list of America’s Most Innovative Leaders. Barbara joins 99 men to round out the 100-person list. Wait a minute. Are you kidding me? You mean to tell me that of all the most innovative leaders in the country, Forbes could only find one woman to meet their criteria?

This Forbes list is outrageous.

There are undoubtedly a number of women who are frustrated to see such a glaring lack of representation, but you don’t have to be a woman to be appalled by this list. You just have to be a human. That’s how common sense this is. I do have a little added urgency as a father of two daughters (a 4 year-old and a 1 year-old). I want them to come into a working world of equality, and needless to say, we’re not quite there yet.

It made me wonder. How many women sit on the Editorial Board at Forbes that they didn’t catch this? It made me question the entire methodology behind the Innovative Leaders list.

So I did a little digging.

Forbes explains the 99-1 ratio by saying that their methodology is data-driven, so the data decided the Top 100. It's a convenient scapegoat, but who set the criteria for defining innovation or leadership?

If the data showed such a skewed portrait of the working world, Forbes' editors should have known that their model was wrong.

It’s inexcusable.

But Forbes is only a part of the problem, though they should be embarrassed. And their list isn’t the problem, though it is atrocious.

The data is the problem.

Only 5.4 percent of the CEOs in the S&P 500 are women: 473 men and 27 women. Sure, that’s better than 99 to 1, but not much.

Representation matters. Inclusion matters. Recognition matters. So, if Forbes couldn’t find innovative women for their list, it strikes me that they either weren’t looking hard enough, or more likely, weren’t seeing what was there in plain sight.

They overlooked the talent, hard work, and accomplishments of countless women.

The data at my company wasn’t much better at the management level a few years ago. Our January 2017 management team consisted of zero women. But as we've grappled with our company's biggest challenges and opportunities, we've added more talent to the management team to round out the functions and perspectives we felt were missing.

As a result, four incredible women have joined our Management team in the past 2 years. We did not invite them to the team because they are women, but rather because of who they are, what they have achieved, and the value they add to our team.  

We're not here to pat ourselves on the back about the 50/50 ratio, but rather to add to the chorus of voices that recognize that diversity and inclusion truly improve business outcomes. The impact that these women have had on our team and our company has been a game-changer for us. 

Innovation, leadership, strategy, process, and culture have all improved.

And we’re just scratching the surface of this new team’s impact. I recognize that our CEO and COO (me) are both men, so we are still part of the overall data problem, but hopefully we are also becoming a small part of the solution.

In their meager apology, Forbes mentions that their methodology was flawed because they only considered “data rich companies” and “the entire exercise collapses if the possible ranking pool doesn’t correlate at least somewhat with the overall pool of innovative talent.” If Forbes or any other organization would like to consider an innovative talent pool that includes all genders, I’ll be the first in line to nominate the four women on our management team.

And some day, I hope that my daughters have an equal chance to be on any list they aspire to be on.


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Topics: diversity and inclusion, women in business, forbes

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