After Forbes came under fire for only including one woman on its list of the 100 most innovative leaders, editor Randall Lane said Sunday that the disparity was the result of the company’s data methodology.
Lane’s explanation comes days after readers noticed that Barbara Rentler, the CEO of Ross, was the only woman featured on the list, one of many lists the many rankings of people in business that the outlet compiles every year.
The list, Lane wrote, was not assembled by Forbes editors. He then described how the list came together:
While I enjoy a subjective list as much anyone, the kind where you sit around a room debating and adding and culling, the vast majority of Forbes lists are data-driven exercises, where we determine a methodology, crunch the numbers and let the chips fall where they may. In the case of the new innovative leaders ranking, we’ve been honing its methodology for years, through our Most Innovative Companies list, in partnership with professors at BYU and INSEAD, who have pioneered the idea of an “innovator’s premium” – publicly-traded companies valued at a number beyond what their mere financial performance justifies.
Members of that same team, he added, then applied the methodology to just the CEOs or founders of the “largest companies,” broadly defined as those worth at least $10 billion or that are quickly growing. They then weighed several qualities ― “quantitative reputation, social capital, publicly-traded track record,” he wrote ― to finalize the list.
The Forbes list credits three men for developing that methodology. As Forbes itself has reported, studies show that diversity among a company’s decision-makers results in better business decisions.
Lane didn’t go as far as to apologize, but he admitted the system was defective and produced results that don’t reflect reality.
“Our methodology was flawed, as well — at a minimum when it came to being more expansive with who was eligible to be ranked,” Lane wrote. “While each data point individually made logical sense, as did focusing on data-rich public companies, the entire exercise collapses if the possible ranking pool doesn’t correlate at least somewhat with the overall pool of innovative talent.”
He also acknowledged that men are disproportionately represented at the top of the largest companies, contributing to the nearly male-only list.
Women, he admitted, “never had much of a chance here.”
This is the second time in recent months that Forbes has come under fire for its methodology. In March, the magazine declared Kylie Jenner the world’s youngest ever “self-made” billionaire, enraging readers who pointed out that she was the scion of one of the entertainment industry’s wealthiest families and therefore not self-made.