Why Are There Only 14 Women On Fortune's "40 Under 40" List?

Photo: Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages.
This morning, Fortune announced its newest class of "40 Under 40" (there's not a single repeat from last year). It's a veritable who's who of start-up hot shots, with Adam Neuman, CEO of co-working space WeWork, topping the list. While the roundup represents a number of different industries (tech, health care, and entertainment, among others), it's noticeably lacking in diversity: Only 35% of the honorees are women.

Granted, the women who are honored are total badasses: Dhivya Suryadevara manages $80 billion in assets for General Motors; Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCyle, has ambitious expansion plans for the 10-year-old company; and Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code is working to change the playing field for women in tech. But, it's also kind of a bummer that three of the 14 women are from the entertainment industry: Jessica Alba, Ronda Rousey, and Taylor Swift. (Seriously, Fortune, couldn't you find another pop star to honor?) Yes, all three are doing amazing things, but if the editors are only going to give women 14 spots, couldn't they focus on powerful women who aren't also celebrities? (John Oliver was the only male celebrity to make the list.)

Leigh Gallagher, assistant managing editor at Fortune, has a simple explanation for the list's lack of equality: There just aren't enough women doing things at the same level as men.

The editors don't have quotas they aim to fill for "40 Under 40," she explains, and they wouldn't want to just include anyone in order to make the list even. It's kind of a bummer to think that women are still not at the same level as men, but Gallagher is optimistic.

"I can’t stress enough: Women are gaining traction in all of our lists," she says, noting that the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list has doubled since 2011 (although it's still a puny 4.8% of the total list).

But, maybe instead of feeling depressed about the state of women in business, this should be a call to action to encourage young women to disrupt the working world and start their own companies. Obviously, we need more role models. And Gallagher is confident the next Google will be started by a woman. Maybe it will be you?

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