Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business–24 of them are Female

I really like Fast Company’s coverage–they manage to produce a lot of fresh, interesting material that isn’t just about fuddy duddy notions of business, but the intersections of sustainability, design, creativity, leadership, innovation etc. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those nerds who likes futurist talk about where the world is headed culturally, technologically, sociologically etc.).
That’s why I was purdy disappointed to find that only 24 of the top 100 of their “Most Creative People in Business” list were women. Really Fast Company? Women are launching businesses at twice the rate of men. Super innovative microlending businesses are taking the world by storm, largely led by the efforts of women. Between 1997 and 2006, the number of majority women-owned businesses increased 42%.
I’m not going to trot out gender stereotypes about women being more creative than men, but God knows we’re as creative as men. We may be historically less likely to get involved in business, but all that’s changing in a huge way, and I would guess, the women who are blazing trails in business are largely doing it in creative ways (out of both necessity and ingenuity). I don’t claim to be a business expert, but this just seems short-sighted on the part of the Fast Company editorial team, who touts themselves as quintessentially big-picture and future-thinking.
The seven women in the top 25, FYI, are: Melinda Gates, Michelle Ganeless, Stella McCartney, Susan Athey, Trish Adams, Dawn Danby, Jil Sander.
Feel free to put your nominations in comments.

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19 Comments

  1. Hypatia
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I actually feel like there is a stereotype that men are more likely to be creative geniuses, and women are more likely to be “bookish” smart. Its one of the reasons far fewer woman choose to mathematicians, as mathematics is a field considered to involve innate creativity and insight more than memorization and studying. Of course thats absolutely not true; woman can be (and are) creative geniuses too, but the stereotype effect is harmful.

  2. BeeWild
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    One reason some of the women we admire are not on that list may be because they were profiled in the recent past. However, Sally Jewell is not on there. She is one of the leading voices in the outdoor industry and in cooperative style business. When conducting a search on their website the most recent article I could find was from 2007 and I wouldn’t call it an exclusive profile. Here are some other articles that talk about one of my favorite female business leaders: (Bias alert: I used to work for both REI and NPCA, of which she is a board member)
    http://www.grist.org/article/jewell/
    http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS158304+14-Apr-2009+PRN20090414
    http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2006/12/25/story1.html

  3. cattrack2
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    This is interesting. I think you’re right that Fast Company overlooked women, but its unlikely its to the extent you think. If you look at the top MBA schools, about 30% of their students are female. Most of this is self selection (for a variety of reasons). So, here, Fast Company is saying 25% of the 100 most creative businesspeople are women. I don’t know what the % of women who own businesses versus men is, but 25% isn’t much below the 30% common among top MBAs.

  4. diet pills
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Personally to me, it does seem unbalanced that only 24 of the top 100 “Most Creative People in Business” list were women. There are many creative business women today. From the former head of HP, Carly Fiorina who is to run for the senate out of California to Meg Whitman from eBay who is to run for govenor of the same state.

  5. argon
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Not to slam Melinda Gates or anything, but I wish business publications like this one would value “marrying a rich guy” less as a career achievement, and put more emphasis on women who are bootstrapping their own dreams… even if for the moment they have less net worth than Bill Gates’ wife.

  6. aleks
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Carly Fiorina was a disaster for HP, and the Clinton campaign, and the McCain campaign. Her senate run should be entertaining though.

  7. Comrade Kevin
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    One finds a tremendous amount of wisdom in the words of notable women and examples of many women who have made a substantive impact in business, but these often lurk beneath the surface.
    What I do find is that women are often not as inclined to self-promote as men or to be as nakedly ambitious, both of which are essential skills needed to be highly successful in business. And to change this, big picture fashion, is to increase women’s self-esteem and to make women not be afraid to be assertive. It’s a vicious cycle and it ends up reinforcing itself, sadly.

  8. Gopher
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I dont think its that women are afraid to be assertive or that its a self esteem issue but the reaction by men when they are. A woman becomes a bitch in the eyes of many men when shes doing the same thing men have been doing forever.

  9. Hypatia
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    “A woman becomes a bitch in the eyes of many men when shes doing the same thing men have been doing forever.”
    So true. Reminds me of an article I read a while ago: when little girls are assertive with their peers, they are called “bossy” and their behavior is corrected, but when little boys act the same way, they are considered “future leaders”. If this type of double standard is reinforced since childhood, it is no wonder that women in business aren’t as prevalent or as noticed as men.

  10. slowhand901
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Not to contradict you or anything, but Carly Fiorina has a reputation as the destroyer of HP and the harbinger of death for whatever projects or companies she becomes leader of (an entirely appropriate and duly gained reputation, IMHO.) That being the case, I wouldn’t really cite her as an example of genius business women. She slashed HP’s engineering and research departments, took HP out of the big-iron market and focused more on cheap commodity desktops (which is basically a race to the bottom.) I won’t even bring up the ridiculously short-sighted merger with Compaq.
    Her grip on technology and trends was appallingly bad. Like most execs, she got really caught up in creating imaginary technologies that ultimately turned out to be Dilbert-esq buzzwords (see: “Adaptive Enterprise”.)

    I have friends who worked at HP when she was still there. After her boardroom assassination, they called me to report that whole departments were literally dancing in the halls – that’s how bad the environment was when she was at the helm.

  11. FemVeg
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Fast Company is having trouble grasping the creativity of minorities also. I don’t like to make assumptions about race (or gender), but I believe the minority report is only about 15 out of 100.
    Yay for Will Allen and healthy food!

  12. FemVeg
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Oops, I recounted and it looks like a little more than 15. I’m not totally sure since I’m going on a small picture and names.

  13. asseenontv
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    I was so happy when McCain brought her in. I knew she’d be as bad for him as she was for HP and she was! It was beautiful.
    She’s famous for saying people don’t have the right to have jobs, I’m actually not sure why anyone ever hires her.

  14. asseenontv
    Posted August 20, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I have to roll my eyes at this one. Being successful in business is nothing to be proud of. Fast Company is just marketing bullshit; business isn’t “fast” and “innovative.” The only creativity important in business is being able to bullshit and cheat people.
    I know that Courtney is primarily a writer so it’s understandable that she get’s taken in by things like “Fast Company.” However, one should not make it a goal to get on such a list.

  15. aleks
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Definitely the best way of determining minority representation.

  16. orestes
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Consider how this stereotype is reflected into high art – most of it is consumed by women, but most of it is made by men, at least from what I perceive in art litterature and classical music. What does this tell us about gender socialization, if accurate?

  17. vegkitty
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, I think a lot of that has to do with the way “classics” are defined in Western Culture, and the treatment of women over the years. Up until very recently, there were almost no female writers being published or female artists with showings. Considering that “classic” Western literature is mostly from the 20th century and earlier, it’s no wonder that women are underrepresented in the art/literature world!

  18. vegkitty
    Posted August 21, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, I think a lot of that has to do with the way “classics” are defined in Western Culture, and the treatment of women over the years. Up until very recently, there were almost no female writers being published or female artists with showings. Considering that “classic” Western literature is mostly from the 20th century and earlier, it’s no wonder that women are underrepresented in the art/literature world!

  19. orestes
    Posted August 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    So, what about the consumers of these male-originated “classics”? Are the majority of them women or is that just a false stereotype?

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