Forbes found itself at the centre of a social media storm this week over the publication of its list of America’s most innovative leaders. The issue? Its list of 100 people featured just one woman.
After coming under fire on Twitter, the editors acknowledged that the methodology they used to compile the list was flawed.
“Women, as we all know, are poorly represented at the top of the largest corporations (just 5% of the S&P 500) and fare even worse among growing public tech companies,” said Forbes chief content officer Randall Lane. “In other words, for all our carefully calibrated methodology, women never had much of a chance here.”
Later, Lane announced a task force (to be led by Forbes’ Caroline Howard) to investigate and recommend how to ensure future lists and projects are designed fairly.
With this issue striking a chord around the world right now, we thought it was time to highlight some of the women leading innovation in Asia – women who may not always make it on to lists, but who do deserve to be celebrated.
1. Jenny Lee, managing partner at private equity group GGV Capital
Singapore-born Jenny Lee established Menlo Park, California-based GGV’s first office in China. She has been instrumental in investing and helping eight early-stage start-ups go public on the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges as well as on the Nasdaq-style ChiNext board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. In China, Lee’s investment portfolio ranges from drone maker Ehang, developer of China’s first autonomous flying taxi, to Liulishuo, operator of an artificial intelligence-powered English-language learning app.
2. Shi Jianping, Research Director at SenseTime
China’s AI unicorn Sensetime has a female director. Shi Jianping, who says in her website bio that her goal is to find solutions to real world problems using computer vision techniques, leads the autonomous driving Research & Development team in SenseTime. She has published 12 papers in high-impact journals, including CVPR and ICCV, and has a doctorate from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
3. Shi Yan, a farmer and founder of China’s first community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm
Shi Yan is a farmer in China, and the founder of China’s first community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. Shi, who has a doctorate from the Renmin University School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, chose to go back to the farm, growing organic food without pesticides and distributing them to city consumers. The community is an environmental-friendly system that connects farmers and city consumers together by allowing consumers to subscribe to a harvest that delivers food to them.
4. Fu Qiaomei, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese geneticist Qiaomei Fu gained an interest in biology as a teenager. She was later the first to sequence nuclear DNA from an early modern human. Being a professor at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, she is a leading scientist in exploring the genetic roots of humankind. Her findings have helped human beings better understand the ancient population structure and our connection with distant ancestors.
5. Qu Fang, Co-founder of Social Commerce Xiaohongshu
Qu Fang, a native of Wuhan, quit a well-paid job as a supply chain executive and founded China’s social commerce site Xiaohongshu with Stanford business school graduate Charlwin Mao in 2013. Xiaohongshu began as an app to help travellers plan their overseas shopping lists. It is now one of the most popular shopping review communities in China, valued at US$3 billion in its latest fundraising and has investors including Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings.
6. Gong Rujing, the founder and chairwoman of AI medical company Happy Life Tech and its affiliate Yidu Cloud
Gong Rujing is deeply engaged in NGO projects such as voluntary teaching and environmental protection when she was studying at the London School of Economists. She then founded big data unicorn Happy Life Tech (HLT) in 2013 in China. The company is working on an artificial intelligence medical network that aims to transform the relationship between humans and disease. Its affiliate Yidu Cloud has collaborated with over 700 hospitals in China and has a valuation of around 12 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion).
7. Michelle Sun, CEO of First Code Academy
Michelle Sun wants to empower the next generation to become creators with technology. Sun, who first learned coding at a women’s only camp, founded First Code Academy, the coding school for young people in Hong Kong in 2013 and which now spans Macau, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Singapore, and Taiwan. The school teaches kids as young as four years’ old how to code and create mobile applications. Coding is the computer language employed to build the software, websites, and apps that people use on their smart devices every day.
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