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This California CEO is the only woman on a Forbes Top 100 list of US innovators

A Forbes list of 100 top U.S. innovators ranks Barbara Rentler, CEO of California-based Ross Stores, at No. 75 as the only woman, sparking a backlash. The magazine’s editor admits, “we blew it.”
A Forbes list of 100 top U.S. innovators ranks Barbara Rentler, CEO of California-based Ross Stores, at No. 75 as the only woman, sparking a backlash. The magazine’s editor admits, “we blew it.” Screengrab from Twitter

The Forbes list of America’s 100 most innovative leaders posted Saturday includes such luminaries as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.

And, all the way down at No. 75, a single woman: Barbara Rentler, CEO of California-based Ross Stores Inc. owner of Ross Dress for Less stores.

Rentler has been credited with growing revenues at the discount retailer chain, headquartered in Dublin in the Bay Area, to four times those of Macy’s in 2017, KNTV reported.

The chain has 1,523 stores in 39 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam, according to the company. It is the largest discount retailer in the U.S.

Rentler joined the company in 1986 and became chief executive officer in 2014, Bloomberg reported.

The Forbes list, with Rentler as the only woman among 99 male “innovators,” sparked considerable backlash, The Washington Post reported.

“At first I thought maybe they had a men’s and women’s list,” wrote Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar on Twitter, followed by a “head-slapping” emoji.

Others pointed out that Forbes failed to include a photo of Rentler for the list.

“Not even a ‘photo’ of Barbara Rentler, the only woman on Forbes’ list of (100+) America’s Most Innovative Leaders. Just a silhouette of some dude,” wrote Eric Oesterle on Twitter.

In response to a McClatchy news group request, Ross Stores Inc. declined to provide a photo of Rentler for this story.

Forbes said it devised the list using methodology worked out with several universities that included data such as market value and social capital, The Washington Post reported.

On Sunday, Forbes editor Randall Lane posted a note to the Forbes website conceding the magazine’s methodology was “flawed” and calling it a missed opportunity.

“We blew it,” Lane wrote Monday on Twitter. “Now we’re doing what journalists do: figuring out how this happened and learning from it.”

Notre Dame women's basketball Coach Muffet McGraw calls out gender inequality in the workforce, and said sports is a great opportunity to address it.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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