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

October 20, 2015

Is there anything we’re not underrepresented in?

When Fortune’s ’40 Under 40′ were announced recently, it was a depressingly unsurprising revelation that of those 40, a barely noticeable 14, were women.

The list of 40 hotshots under 40 who demonstrate not only wealth, but power, influence, and innovation in their industries, was yet again dominated by men, giving us all flashbacks of Vanity Fair’s cringe-worthy all-male late night TV host spread and the fued in Hollywood over equal pay.

Of the meagre 35 per cent of women on the list, three were pulled from the entertainment industry (Taylor Swift, Jessica Alba, and Ronda Rousey), while only one male celebrity, John Oliver, was featured. The other women were drawn from industries such as IT, fitness, motoring, banking, medicine, and the odd entrepreneurial pursuit.

While it’s tempting to cry “patriarchy!” at the first sign of the inequality fire, there may be more to why the list’s gender discrepancy is so glaringly obvious, according to Fortune’s (female) assistant managing editor, Leigh Gallagher, who says there are simply fewer women reaching the same peaks of industry as men, though the number is growing every year.

“I can’t stress enough, women are gaining traction in all of our lists,” Gallagher stated.

Gallagher also asserted the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list has actually doubled since 2011; currently with a grand total of 24 leading ladies. Although this still only accounts for a seemingly insignificant 4.8 per cent of the total number, it is hugely encouraging considering there was only one woman on the list in 1998.

But why is the gap that huge?

According to an internal Hewlett Packard report, men apply for a job or promotion when they feel meet at least 60 per cent of the qualifications, while women will only put their hat in the ring if they meet 90 to 100 per cent of them. Although this may constitute a sweeping generaliziation, the report does make a valid point. In a world where industry is still male dominated, the sight of board meetings packed with men is not very encouraging for women looking to hit the heights. For women, confidence in business is surprisingly hard to come by, and even harder to hold onto when it’s gained.

Many would argue that regardless of the disparity in numbers, Fortune should have upped the number of women to create a more egalitarian-looking list. However, the publication has no quotas to fill, and nor should it. As women, we don’t need to be mollycoddled. We need to trust ourselves and not be afraid to praise our own achievements; throw caution to the winds and apply for everything we want, even if we feel the criteria is beyond us, and have faith that we can, and will, rise to the occasion. Only then can we hope to make an impact in numbers big enough to be noticed.



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