The women on the third annual Forbes 50 Over 50 are founding brands used by millions, breaking world records and forging technological breakthroughs. They are proof positive that success and innovation can happen at any age.
This article was first published on forbes.com
The third annual 50 Over 50 list might be our most powerful list yet: This collection of founders, innovators and creators have a sphere of influence that stretches from the deep sea to outer space—literally.
Sixty-three-year-old astronaut Peggy Whitson made history this spring when she became the first woman to command a private mission to the International Space Station. Monica Jain, now 60, founded Fish 2.0 Ventures in 2012 and has facilitated some $400 million to entrepreneurs working to protect the world’s oceans and marine life. And for every earthling in between, Caryn Seidman-Becker, Patti LaBelle and Valerie Griffith are building brands (Clear Secure, Patti’s Good Life and SkinnyDipped, respectively) consumed by millions.
These are just five of the 200 fresh faces on the 2023 50 Over 50, but their breakthroughs, inventions and achievements represent this entire Forbes list. Produced in partnership with Mika Brzezinski and her Know Your Value Initiative and first launched in 2021, the 50 Over 50 highlights women doing their most innovative, impactful work at 50, 60, 70 and beyond.
The list is divided into four broad categories—innovation, impact, investment and lifestyle—and dozens of sub-sectors, including real estate, cryptocurrency, biotechnology and dance.
Full list: 50 over 50 2023
The 2023 edition stands out for the number of founders and owners amid its ranks: nearly half of the 200 women in this year’s collection have either founded or own their business, the highest-ever proportion of founders we’ve seen in three years.
Some have even founded multiple companies: Mariam Naficy, 52, founded eve.com in 1998 and sold it for $100 million in cash two weeks before the Nasdaq crashed in 2000. She started art and design marketplace Minted in 2007, grew it into a $300 million business and then, in 2021, started Heretic Ventures to invest in AI-driven companies. Chemist Carolyn Bertozzi, 56, has founded or cofounded eight businesses over her career—and if that doesn’t sound productive enough, she won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2022.
Naficy, Bertozzi and their compatriots were chosen for the final list in a five-month research, reporting, vetting and judging process. We start by opening nominations to the general public—an exercise that has resulted in thousands of nominations over the last three years—and solicit the Know Your Value team and Forbes journalists for insights into the women who are the most impactful people on their beats.
To cull that huge group down to the final 200 we asked some tough questions: What are your greatest “Over 50” accomplishments? Did you step into a new or more powerful role later in life? Did you make a big pivot? Are you achieving at scale?
Once the answer to those questions was “yes,” a group of semifinalists was sent to 12 expert judges—a panel that included entrepreneurs Bobbi Brown and Miyoko Schinner, financiers Suzanne Shank and Anne Finucane and Spelman president Helene Gayle. (You can meet the rest of the judges here!) The judges assessed candidates’ business acumen, reach, and “Over 50 street cred”—and they asked a few questions of their own, too. The process concluded with a final round of vetting, fact-checking and tire-kicking.
The fruits of this effort is a group of women who see age as their ultimate advantage.
“I was a much better astronaut, getting in later and having more life experience,” Whitson told us. Her first space flight didn’t happen until she was 42, and two decades later, she’s drawing on that experience to help the space infrastructure company Axiom build the galaxy’s first commercial space station.
Sixty-four-year-old author, MacArthur ‘genius award’ recipient, activist and founder Catherine Coleman Flowers works with leaders across party lines and between the public and private spheres. She says that being over 50 is the key to many of these conversations: “I’ve learned how to get along with people,” she says. “You have to meet people where they are. I’ve learned that with age because when I was younger, I didn’t have the patience to sit around long enough.”
Or, as Mel Robbins—the 54-year-old podcaster and best-selling author—candidly put it: “You are wise. You have experience…You know your worth and you speak your mind. And you are just getting started. I f***ing love being in my 50s.”
Maggie McGrath is the editor of ForbesWomen, the Forbes vertical dedicated to covering all angles of female entrepreneurship, and the author of the ForbesWomen newsletter. She loves a good Forbes list: she is the editor of the 50 Over 50 and the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, and previously edited the 30 Under 30 Food & Drink list and the Just 100. She’s worked at Forbes since 2013 and in that time has written on everything from the student debt crisis to Triple Crown-contending (and winning) horses. Before coming to Forbes, Maggie worked with TODAY show financial editor Jean Chatzky