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raceAhead: Fortune’s 40 Under 40 List

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.”

 

On Point

Atul Gawande launches a listening tourThe CEO of the new health care venture formed by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway will be meeting with some of the firms’ 1.2 million employees, a surprisingly diverse group of people working in divergent industries across the country. Consider Berkshire Hathaway, which owns a wide variety of companies ranging from Duracell to Acme Brick, a workforce which can just as often be found in rural factories as office cube farms. Amazon is up against similar challenges. “Is Amazon’s goal to make the office workers healthier in Seattle or the warehouse workers healthier around the country?”  Dr. Kevin Schulman, a professor at Stanford’s medical and business schools tells STAT. “Those are very different sets of challenges.”STAT

Mark Zuckerberg on giving people a voice versus keeping communities safe
The Facebook CEO sat down with Recode’s Kara Swisher for an extended formal interview, their first since 2010. They hit on all the troubles experienced by the social network to date: Fake news, hate speech and data privacy. Zuckerberg mostly fielded every tough question- although he was forced to clarify some remarks on his willingness to let Holocaust deniers stay on the platform – and there was some reckoning with the dark side of the monster he created. “I think we also have a responsibility to recognize that the tools won’t always be used for good things and we need to be there and be ready to mitigate all the negative uses, so whether that’s terrorism, or people thinking about self-harm or suicide who we need to go make sure they get help quickly, or bullying, or election interference, or fake news.”
Recode

Everything you need to know about degree attainment and racial equity
The Education Trust is an invaluable resource for stats about education, equity, and workforce readiness. Some 40 states have pledged resources to increase degree attainment, which will mean paying extra attention to the unique barriers facing their populations of color. This series of reports on degree attainment for black and Latinx populations helps frame that challenge: Black adults are two-thirds as likely to hold a college degree as whites, and Latinx are only half as likely. Click through for a treasure trove of infographics, data and insights, and special props to the Ed Trust team for breaking down the Latinx data by national origin. Not a monolith, yo.
Education Trust

Today: Writers Roxane Gay and Akwaeke Emezi in conversation about gender and power
Space at WNYC. While the event is sold out for anyone in the New York area, there’s a free livestream. I’ve not yet read Emezi’s debut novel, Freshwater, but this interview in The Rumpus, has pushed it to the top of my to-read list. The novel explores the concept of “ogbanje,” an Igbo trickster spirit that’s born into a human body, as a way of informing Emezi’s own journey of identity clarity. In an essay in The Cut, Emezi described her awakening as transgender and non-binary, and the surgeries that allowed her to cross a bridge across realities, a spirit customizing its vessel to reflect its nature.” 
The Rumpus

The Woke Leader

On being the great-granddaughter of an Igbo slave-trader
This surprising and important piece from Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, explores the complex history of the slave trade from the Nigerian side of the equation. Some of this we already knew: Long before the Europeans took trafficking in human beings to scale, the Igbo people enslaved other Igbo people as punishment for crimes, indebtedness or as spoils of war. But what is extraordinary to learn is the degree to which the amplification of demand impacted the community, and how the descendants of formerly enslaved Igbo people are still stigmatized to this day. For the Nigerian people who are lucky enough to know their own history, it can get complicated. “African intellectuals tend to blame the West for the slave trade, but I knew that white traders couldn’t have loaded their ships without help from Africans like my great-grandfather,” she writes.
New Yorker

Four writers on being “on their meds”
There are some 44 million people living with mental illness, and some 19 million are being treated with some combination of medication and therapy. The stigma associated with medication remains profound, and the casual way people talk about psychiatric states – are you crazy? – can further isolate people with mental illness. “I was a 26-year-old undergraduate who could barely manage to eat or shower once a day. I eventually admitted to myself that I was not well,” writes Anthony James Williams, of his. “But I did not know anyone black who was on medication for their mental health, and asking for any form of assistance made me feel weak.” It also means making it work at work, depending on your needs. “It’s awkward to bust out a pill bottle in the middle of a small office or classroom, but it would be more awkward to have a bipolar episode at work,” writes Diamond Sharp.
The Outline

The complicated definition of innocence
Law and Order re-runs aside, today, very few criminal cases go to trial anymore. Instead, mostly innocent people are now forced into plea bargains, the often bizarre dance between a person stuck in the criminal justice system and the system that wants to extract some measure of efficient justice. But the horse-trading between prosecutors and defendants has changed dramatically. “American legislators have criminalized so many behaviors that police are arresting millions of people annually—almost 11 million in 2015,” explains The Atlantic’s Emily Yoffe in this deep dive. Plea deals are often capricious, and thanks to them, now millions of Americans have criminal records.
The Atlantic

Quote

The case for investing in diverse founders and diverse markets is more about doing everything you possibly can to not miss unicorns and decacorns and polyamorous butterflies (I just coined that, thank you) in underserved, untapped places. Plain and simple. It’s not about “helping” founders, it’s about fueling an untapped ecosystem so that you may be lucky enough to reap the rewards in years to come.
Arlan Hamilton