The XX Factor

Why So Few Women on the Forbes Richest People List?

Sarah Gilbert at AOL’s Daily Finance has decided that the paucity of females on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people is a cause for celebration, not dismay. “Enormous wealth is not a mark of honor, but an indictment,” Gilbert writes. “It is proof that, instead of working to better the lives of employees and consumers who are ‘stakeholders’ of your business enterprises, you have instead extracted vast wealth.” She helpfully adds that she can see how those who created this list might have trouble with the findings: “No doubt in their worldview, this list represents power.”

Uh, yeah. Any list that leads off with Carlos Slim, followed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, can be said to represent quite a bit of power.

For the record, the Forbes list contains 922 men and 89 women. When it comes to self-made women who did not inherit the bucks, the number of females gets even smaller-there are a mere 14 of them represented in this counting. In the United States, they include Oprah Winfrey (No. 400) and Meg Whitman (No. 773), who made her money running eBay.

There’s an entire school of thought that argues that women have a different mindset when it comes to finances. We’re kinder, we’re gentler, and we choose to earn less money. Most of this, frankly, is baloney. Women earn less money than men because they are discriminated against. ( Why, again, do newly minted female MBAs earn $4,600 less than equivalent males ?) They are also significantly more likely to be responsible for the infamous second shift. Single mothers file for bankruptcy at much higher rates than their married counterparts. In retirement, women are more likely to live in poverty than men.

All of these facts do not represent a different female financial voice. They demonstrate a lack of female power. And there’s no amount of feel-good talk that can take the sting of that away.