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Female CEOs Blast 'Forbes' List Of Innovative Leaders That Includes Only One Woman

Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer and co-founder of 23andMe, speaks during the TechCrunch Disrupt 2018 summit in San Francisco in September 2018.
David Paul Morris
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Anne Wojcicki, chief executive officer and co-founder of 23andMe, speaks during the TechCrunch Disrupt 2018 summit in San Francisco in September 2018.

Note: An updated version of the letter, with additional signatures, was published Sept. 13.

" We blew it."

That was Forbes editor Randall Lane's assessment on Twitter after his publication released a list of America's 100 most innovative leaders that included only a single woman.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and Tesla's Elon Musk tied for the top spot. The only woman on the list, Barbara Rentler, CEO of Ross Stores, clocked in at 75.

The reaction to the glaring lack of women was swift and sharp.

Replies to Resma Saujani's tweet include politician Stacey Abrams, makeup brand Glossier founder Emily Weiss, Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code, Refugee Coffee Company CEO Kitti Murray, Spanx inventor Sara Blakely, Rihanna and Serena Williams.

And in case Forbes needed more names, dozens of female CEOs — 57 at last count, including designer Stella McCartney; Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO of Minted; and Sarah Leary, co-founder of Nextdoor — signed an open letter to Forbes. Written by journalist Diana Kapp, author of the book Girls Who Run The World,the letter calls on the magazine to "overhaul the criteria that determines who makes the cut."

Anne Wojcicki, CEO and co-founder of genetic testing company 23andMe, signed Kapp's letter in hopes that it would encourage better representation.

"People are just acutely aware now of the importance of diversity," Wojcicki tells All Things Considered. "And when something is so blatantly missing — a whole population — it's really surfaced and it comes to the attention of everyone now."

And she says such titles aren't just about bragging rights.

"People do think about these lists," she says. "They go online and think about board members or advisers and who it is that can help solve a problem. I think there are real ripple effects when this kind of press dominates. It's not just one article. It's how in general women are perceived."

Wojcicki says she's glad Forbes has admitted fault and is forming a task force to make sure this mistake isn't repeated. But at its root, she sees this as a problem with oversight.

"It's kind of shocking that this actually got through," she says. "I would love to see their editorial policy of diversity represented at the top when they're starting to think about 'what are the lists we're going to put out?'"

When asked who she would put on that list of innovative leaders, she immediately mentioned her sister, Susan Wojcicki, a co-founder of Google and current CEO of YouTube.

"There's just a tremendous number of women out there who are phenomenal leaders."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mindthat you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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