A Disturbing List! Where Are The Women On Fortune’s 40 Under 40?

Men: 40, Women: 6.


Because they show “ties” for several of the top 40 listings, there are actually 46 people on Fortune’s 40 Under 40, an annual list of business movers and shakers.  13% Women.  You have to get to #20 (#21 really) to see the first woman.  How very sad.  Fortune has been accused of tilting the list for business and political reasons, but even if they didn’t do that, in 2011, if a premier business magazine can dare to publish a list like this with only 6 women, it says many awful things.

Let’s give Fortune the benefit of the doubt, and say they were honest in their subjective choices.  This almost makes things worse!  If they really could not find more than 6 women out of the top 46 people in the country who are propelling business forward with innovation and leadership, then clearly women don’t have equal opportunity.  There is a glass ceiling.  We know that women have the talent, intelligence, drive and education.  Stats show that there are now more women college students, graduates, graduate students, etc. (than men in each case).  Women are excelling in all fields, but still not being given the money, power or authority in far too many cases.

I recruit executives in Aerospace and Defense, and when we source a candidate pool, we see far too few women in positions of authority and leadership, even though our clients would love to be more diverse in their executive teams.

I’m getting too old to see a list like this.  I thought society fixed this about 45 years ago, when women’s rights advocates finally got a fair hearing, in the industrialized world at least.

We read about the severe oppression of women in underdeveloped countries all the time, and of course that saddens all of us.  To console ourselves, we at least hope to be able to say “That doesn’t happen HERE.”  But this list makes me wonder.

I hope Gen X and Gen Y get this fixed soon!

A few others have written about this, so check out Paddy Hirsch’s article on Public Radio Marketplace, and
Cathy Kuprino in Forbes.



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Views: 374

Comment by Tim Spagnola on October 25, 2011 at 1:07pm

Mark - this was one of the first things I noted in looking over this list as well. Thanks for calling a bit more attention to it.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 25, 2011 at 2:10pm

I sometimes wonder if it really is a glass ceiling or if it is the glass slipper.  Having devoted years of my career to placing professional women i continually run into more problems with professional women being influenced in their career decisions by their prince than i see men influenced by their princess..  Perhaps this will change if more princesses have the responsibility for supporting the prince without the prince feeling like a second class Mr. Mom. 

Who knows.  I have seen lots of disasters when women reach a certain level that just do not happen with men.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on October 25, 2011 at 3:13pm

For those of you who ever had a doubt about whether the Glass Ceiling ever existed—it does, and this candid picture depicts it in all its glory.

Its existence is proof positive that there is a stairway to heaven on earth, in the career ladder sense, and this picture shot from the floor beneath the Glass Ceiling shows it as well as the Glass Stairway to the Glass Ceiling.  If you notice, looking up through the somewhat see-through glass, nothing but dudes—or all men and some women with big feet.

I'm actually not making light of this but merely suggesting that if you want to get up and through the Glass Ceiling as a Woman, Person of Color, ...name your protected group, you better have feet big enough to kick doors open and climb the Glass Stairway (by performance/results) and stand your ground to survive the obstacles and hurdles, fair and unfair, coming your way.

Comment by Amber on October 25, 2011 at 3:54pm

@Sandra - I can agree with you in many instances. I was lucky enough to have a "prince" who wanted to see me excel and encouraged our relocation and my position changes. On the other side of that, no matter how much a man may be willing when it comes to starting and caring for a family there is a ceratin amount of time that it takes on the women's part that just can't be changed.

In general, there is still a huge cultural belief that women can do anything - up to a point. Many people were in a dilemma last presidential election thinking of having to pick between *gasp* voting a woman or a black person into power.

Comment by Bill Schultz on October 25, 2011 at 4:19pm

Tough topic.  I am consistently disappointed in Silicon Valley for this reason.  With all the advancement and new age thinking, it remains pretty much a boys network.

And women who reach the top are often brought in as sacrificial lambs- Carly Fiorina, Carol Bartz, etc.

(or scape goats if you will)

Comment by Tim Spagnola on October 25, 2011 at 4:49pm

very true Bill- sad but true

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on October 25, 2011 at 5:52pm

I burned my bra for nothing?  I don't think so!  I say Fortune is wrong and there are more women business movers and shakers than they are admitting to. 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 25, 2011 at 6:47pm

See you should have gone to Victoria's Secret.  It works a lot better with the good ole boys than starting fires and making noise.  I think there are probably more women running medium to small businesses well than the fortunes .  Reason being more flexibility and perhaps  less politics.  It's  all a matter of what do you want and what are you willing to give up to have it. And if you get it don't think you have to be a bitch to keep it.

Comment by Suresh on October 26, 2011 at 9:12am

China is an interesting example, where women are rising.


"That’s true, too, in the executive suite. Grant Thornton International, the tax consultancy, found that roughly eight out of 10 companies in China had wom-en in senior management roles, compared with approximately half in the European Union and two thirds in the U.S. Similarly, in China, 31 percent of top executives are female, compared with 20 percent in America. One of the most visible real-estate tycoons is Zhang Xin, who along with her husband controls the Sohu property empire. Tellingly, half of the 14 female billionaires on Forbes’s 2010 list of the world’s wealthiest people were from mainland China. So now, as cities throughout the country sprout new skyscrapers and roads clog up with luxury cars, it’s relatively easy for women to envision themselves as a key part of that picture of prosperity."

Comment by bill josephson on October 26, 2011 at 11:40am

I agree with Cora Mae.  I also recruit in Defense Aerospace and Radar for Engineers as Valentino does since 2003.  I used to work in I/T from 1983-2003.


In I/T by the end of the 1990's I was placing as many, if not more, women than men.  Dealing with as many, if not more, women in management from Manager to VP level.  I saw practically no gender differences, title wise.  But there sure is a difference in general motivations between men and women when it came to recruiting.  Men and women may be being re-engineered societally and in public education, but clearly had different priorities/motivational factors when it came to recruiting them.


In Defense we're talking Ph.D., Masters, and Bachelors in Electrical Engineering, Physics, and Math.  Sorry, not many women or minorities (other than Indians/Asians/some Russians) are in these educational hard science specialties.   I find few women, in particular, doing intensely technical engineering work. 


But women are definitely not being shortchanged professionally or academically.  Our kids have just gone through college and the verdict is over 60% of college students are women.  Liberal Arts classes are often 27 women, 3 men.  Engineering and Business tend to be the only areas still men's domain. 


If there's a glass ceiling--and I don't believe there is--it's self-imposed by women, IMO.


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