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It was a historic year for female founders

November 29, 2021, 5:41 PM UTC
Alyson Shontell.
Mackenzie Stroh

Hello! I’m Alyson Shontell, Fortune’s newly appointed editor-in-chief.

When I was first approached about the opportunity to lead this storied publication, I was 278 days pregnant. Zoom ahead, and I now have a 5-month-old daughter, and I’m writing to you as Fortune’s first female top editor in 92 years.

One interesting thing about being a woman in business is there are a lot of barriers that still need to be broken. In every industry, there’s an opportunity to build a historic career.

Before joining Fortune, I was editor-in-chief of Business Insider. I joined the founding team there in 2008 and cut my teeth as a startup reporter, where I was first to cover some of today’s most valuable companies.

One of those companies was a dating app called Bumble. I met founder Whitney Wolfe Herd in 2015, when she asked me to cover her startup’s launch. The then 25-year-old was reinventing herself after being ousted from Tinder, a company she cofounded—then later sued for sexual harassment.

The experience took an emotional toll and left a chip on her shoulder.

“I’m healthy. I have a great family. I have a great group of friends,” Wolfe Herd told me back then. “I played my role at Tinder, and I’m going to do it again, in a different way. I don’t think anyone should be limited in continuing on in their career.”

Fast-forward six years, and Wolfe Herd has come out on top. In February, at 31, she became the youngest woman ever to take a company public—and with a 1-year-old baby on her hip.

Bumble’s IPO turned Wolfe Herd into a billionaire—a milestone few female CEO/founders have ever achieved. In 2021, at least three made it in the U.S.: Wolfe Herd, 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely. Fortune’s Maria Aspan and Emma Hinchliffe interviewed them all for our cover story on the new billionaires’ club.

COV.0122.Sara Blakely
Photograph by Celeste Sloman

But while it’s an important milestone that shows how far women have come in business, it also cements how far we still have to go. All three women are white, for starters. Meanwhile, the world’s two richest men, Elon Musk (net worth around $300 billion) and Jeff Bezos (more than $200 billion), are in a different wealth stratosphere, vying to become perhaps the world’s first trillionaire someday.

In a world where money equals power, the net worth gap between men and women, as well as between white and BIPOC, must close. The fastest way to do that is for diverse founders to build bigger and bigger companies until they create the next FAANGs—or, perhaps ironically, now MAAANs.

At Fortune, we will continue to keep tabs on those in power—who is gaining it, who is losing it, how they are flexing it—and offer insight into how you can get it too.

In this issue, you’ll also find our annual Investor’s Guide, jam-packed with advice on how to navigate a rapidly changing market dominated by Elon Musk tweets and Shiba Inus, and roiled by inflation.

Thanks, as always, for reading. We’re committed to arming you with all the tools you need to lead and succeed. 

Alyson Shontell
Editor-in-Chief, Fortune
@ajs

A version of this article appears in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Fortune with the headline, “Power shift.”

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