This week, Refinery 29, a lifestyle website for young women, took a fair amount of heat when they published a column exploring the life of a 21-year-old corporate intern who makes $25 an hour. This installment of “Money Diaries” was filled with details of her spending, which includes $2100 a month for rent, $22 for a salmon and cauliflower salad, and $32 for a bottle of rose to bring to the Hamptons.
Turns out, her rent is paid for by her parents, who also front her an extra $800 a month for avocado money. The breathiness with which she breezed by her privilege was breathtaking, but also not unusual. It’s the same phenomenon that finds Kylie Jenner on the cover of Forbes for turning plumped lips into a near billion-dollar empire.
If only we had all been born into a literal marketing machine.
Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list went live today, and with a record 18 women, it’s the most gender-balanced list to date. And there is a terrific mix of influencers, many of whom didn’t have the luxury of being underwritten by a wealthy village before making their marks on the world.
People like Michael Tubbs, 27, the youngest mayor of any sizeable U.S. city, and the first black mayor of his native Stockton, Calif. Tubbs grew up impoverished, the son of a teenage mother and a now-incarcerated father. He attended Stanford on scholarship and has returned home to transform his hometown. His first big idea? Universal basic income for needy families.
Stephanie Lampkin, 33, the founder and CEO of Blendoor, is determined to mitigate systemic bias in tech and beyond. She has a similar beginning – raised by a single mom who struggled with addiction – and credits the aunt who took them in for helping her precocious niece uncover her affinity for tech: Lampkin could code by 13, was a full-stack web developer by 15, and holds degrees from Stanford and MIT.
Because they understand the world in a very specific way, people like Tubbs and Lampkin bring a unique perspective to the marketplace of products, solutions, and ideas.
And like so many people in their position, they use the platform they’ve built to ask the world to do better.
In her TEDx Talk, How To Transcend The Lottery of Birth, Lampkin addresses the end of the American dream – for some. “In this generation, if you were born poor, you’re more likely to stay poor for your entire lifetime,” she begins. “We’ve become less the land of opportunity and more the lottery of birth.”
As much as we love the founders of America’s greatest tech companies, homogeneous environments are not a true meritocracy, she says.
“[T]ech companies look just like the med schools and basketball teams of the early 1900s,” she says. They have not evolved to include the kinds of talent who don’t come from central casting. We have the means to fix this, and we should. “Your race, gender, sexual orientation or the family income should not limit how you can change the world.”