Forbes 400 List Is Lacking Bettys

The 2008 Forbes 400 list is severely lacking in the female department.

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Where’s Betty? A Look at Women On the Forbes 400

Women on the Forbes 400 list are as elusive as the children’s favorite, Waldo

-Jennifer Hamilton

2008 Forbes 400Welcome, Bettys, to the absolutely huge and enormously interesting list of business men, women and families – the Forbes 400. The landscape here was once home to and trod only by males of the older and white varieties. Fortunately, the flora and fauna are becoming both multi-cultural and multi-genderal, although sadly, it’s a slow process. Currently just over 10 percent of the entire list is of the female persuasion – down from 2004, where 12.75 percent of the list were Bettys.

The 27th edition was released at the end of August and the price of admission this year was $1.3 billion, as it was for 2007, with an average net worth of $3.9 billion. Forty-two women appear on the list, with an average net worth of $4.2 billion, which is higher than the average net worth of the entirety. Two-thirds of this year’s list (both males and females) have self-made fortunes, while just 19 percent inherited the entirety of their fortune. (Jealous much?)

So let’s see if you can name the winners on this year’s list!

a. A person on the list thanks to hair products and tequila
b. A list member thanks to a product you use daily
c. List member heading a social network
d. On the list as a result of non-dairy creamer
e. List members in the big loss industry – casinos
f. List members from recently bailed out companies
g. The year’s biggest gainer
h. The top woman on the list that’s not related to WalMart
i. Women from traditionally male-led industries
j. Men from industries traditionally associated with women
k. On the list due to SlimFast
l. On the list thanks to Beanie Babies

Click here for the answers!

What really struck me when I was reviewing the list: although women are making more of a showing on it, the vast majority of the individuals appearing on the Forbes 400 are male. And while times are a-changin’, they’re doing so slowly.

The majority of the female members seem to have a family relationship to the former leader or owner of the company with which they’re currently associated. While there are many male members that are in a similar position, it doesn’t seem to be as much of a requirement for them – with several men appearing on the list that have guided a start up company to the Forbes 400, as in the case of Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell, Charles Dolan and Pierre Omidyar. The number of self-made male individuals on the list outweighs the single female example I was able to find in the form of Oprah Winfrey.

So ladies, take that as a challenge. Even if you’re not in a position to ever have $1.3 billion in net assets, that doesn’t mean we can’t help someone who can be in that position be there and be the best she can. It’s time to really build those networks within corporate America to get a larger presence for women in the Forbes 400. At the same time, there’s no need to make it an uber-feminist women-only crusade. Use your leverage with your skills to make management aware of your capabilities and your leadership in order to create more opportunities for yourself and other people in your organization. (Yes, note the “people”, and not just “women”.)

Go out, marshal the troops, and achieve what you know you’re capable of. Maybe we’ll see you on the list in the near future.

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