Ross Stores’ Barbara Rentler Is the Only Woman on Forbes’ List of the 100 Most Innovative Business Leaders

On a list released late last week of the most innovative leaders at top U.S. companies, Forbes magazine included 99 men and just one woman.

The sole female included was Barbara Rentler, CEO of off-price retailer Ross Stores Inc. She held the No. 75 spot.

The rankings were mostly dominated by CEOs and founders of major corporations, many of them Fortune 500 companies. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk were tied for No. 1.

Aside from Rentler, the list included only two other fashion and retail industry execs: Nike CEO Mark Parker (No. 21) and TJX Cos. Ernie Hermann (No. 93).

Forbes editor Randall Lane addressed the lack of women in a post released this morning, explaining that the rankings were based not on subjective criteria but rather on a numbers-driven methodology: an “innovator’s premium,” quantitative reputation, social capital and publicly traded track record.

The problem with this methodology, Lane said, was that women “are poorly represented at the top of the largest corporations” — and thus “never had much of a chance here.”

“In this case, we should have … delved into the larger problem of women ascending to CEO. We own that,” he wrote.

Lane ended on a forward-thinking note, saying that “a rethink of America’s Most Innovative Leaders” might be in order. He said the company had addressed criticism of its mostly male billionaires list by devising a Richest Self-Made Women list, which included fashion-involved females, such as Adidas ambassador Kylie Jenner, designer Tory Burch and Nike athlete Serena Williams.

Like Rentler, Williams was the only woman on a Forbes top 100 list this year. The 23-time Grand Slam champion was the sole female ranked among the world’s top 100 highest-paid athletes, cracking the 63rd spot with 2019 earnings of $29.2 million.

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