Moira Forbes: Executive VP & Publisher of ForbesWomen

Episode 280

What’s it like to carry on the Forbes legacy, a 104-year old company and one of the world's largest media brands? You won’t want to miss this conversation with Moira Forbes, Executive Vice President & Publisher of ForbesWomen. She shares more about the company, her journey to date and her role driving new business initiatives across the company’s diverse media platforms as well as the world famous Forbes events. We discuss what it means to her to be a part of this legacy her family created and more about the upcoming Forbes Power Women’s Summit which is next month in NY. So much to unpack here and so much to learn from her. On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m thrilled to have my next guest. Here we have Moira Forbes, who was the executive VP and publisher of Forbes women, but really, so much more than that. Not that that isn’t enough. But you are all familiar with Forbes, it is one of the world’s largest media brands. And she is responsible for driving the new business initiatives across the companies, including all of the diverse media platforms that they have in the world famous Forbes events. And Moira is part of the Forbes family, of course. And we’re going to talk a little bit about the 104 year history of Forbes and what it’s like to really build a legacy brand. She is also responsible for the Forbes annual list of The World’s Most Powerful Women, and the host of success with Moira Forbes. And coming up, she’s going to talk to us a little bit about the Forbes power Women’s Summit that is coming up. And so that will be very, very exciting to hear a lot more about that. So enough of me now I want to get to Moira and hear a little bit more from her welcome.

Moira Forbes 2:00
Thank you Kara. Well, there’s it’s never enough from you, your your you exemplify the the Forbes mission. And so as a great entrepreneur, and someone who’s also been so committed to the work that I love, and that’s work for empowering and advancing opportunities for women, it’s great to see you again. And it’s great to be here. So thank you.

Kara Goldin 2:18
Oh, thank you. That’s so nice of you. Well, I want to start at the beginning. So I’d love to get a picture of Moira Forbes as a kid, as a child, talk to me a little bit about what you thought you might be going to do with your life.

Moira Forbes 2:33
Well, I grew up on one of five daughters. So I grew up in a family of all girls. But I also grew up in a family, as you mentioned earlier, that was also a business. And it was this incredible opportunity for me to learn before I even thought I was wandering around what it meant to build a business, what it meant to have customers what it meant to really appreciate and have gratitude for all the people who are supporting the mission of the work that you do, or the company that you’re a part of. So I would say you know what my career started at Forbes, technically, when I was 22, it really did start at birth in the sense that my parents had us working, especially my grandfather at a very young age, entertaining clients, going to work events really being on the front lines of all that we did at Forbes. So it gave me this appreciation for Forbes as a business, but also really, as a family that was much bigger than us. These extraordinary people came to work day in and day out who believed in our mission. And I was also really fortunate because I had innately this passion for business, I always would say that I thought business and when people started a business, it was like magic, right? That you could create something out of nothing and such as clear sense that it was magic. And so even at a young age, I was always making spilling stores I, you know, asked Santa for a cash register one year. You know, I would ask for things like those old school desk plates that have your name on it. Because I thought that was so cool so innately, it was something that I was always drawn to. As I said, I’m one of five girls, all of us are so different and had very different passions. And our parents were so focused on follow the direction that your passions take you, you have to work really hard. You have to be relentless at what you do in terms of the commitment and the work ethic. But the worst thing they felt they could do was to move us in a direction or or influence us to follow a path. That wasn’t one that we wanted to chart on our own.

Kara Goldin 4:42
So did all five girls go into the business? No, I’m

Moira Forbes 4:46
the only one I’m the only one so interested. They had different. They have different interests. And you know, one was an artist and others had different interests in business. But again, my father felt that the biggest dis service he could do to the company. And to me was to influence any of us to go into the business. At the end of the day, it has to be a passion at the end of the day, you also have to be able to do it all my sister and I could have easily gone in. And I think they would have contributed in extraordinary ways. But they just followed a different path. And so he never felt that anyone had to go in the business. I’m the fourth generation in the business and the only fourth generation in the business right now, I had to be very thoughtful, whether that was something that I wanted. Because it is a different experience going into a fourth generation family business, it’s just a different experience in terms of how you navigate your career, the ways in which people connect and interact with you the ways in which you gain experiences. And so I really had to be committed to that and to love it. And if at any point I didn’t, the worst thing I could do was was to stay.

Kara Goldin 5:57
So interesting. So you’re the daughter of Steve Forbes, and you mentioned your grandfather was Malcolm Forbes. So when you were growing up, did you feel like this was a business of finance or journalism? Or were like, What did you kind of think that this was, it was a

Moira Forbes 6:16
business of people and storytelling. When my great grandfather started Forbes in 1917, it was very radical approach to business journalism at the time, which is really focused on the numbers, the balance sheet stock prices, whatever it may be. And when he founded Forbes, it was because he wanted to talk about the people behind the business, he would always say, if you want to understand the health of the business, look at what the time they call the head knock or the person in charge, because that was really to him, the predictor, the greatest predictor of success at a company. And as a company that’s been dedicated to free markets and entrepreneurial capitalism, it always comes down to the people. And so growing up, I didn’t necessarily know, you know, what, what businessmen in every capacity, I knew it was business, I knew it was finance, but always went back to the people. And whether that be the people that we wrote about, whether that be the people inside our company, whether that be our clients and our customers, it was always a very people centric business. And one, as I said, that was about storytelling.

Kara Goldin 7:23
And today, obviously, storytelling is so critical to brands, but that’s how I think about Forbes, growing up with it was really the stories and obviously, finance and sort of educating people. But I think it really is the stories behind the companies, the people that you have, really the legacy of what Forbes has brought to life. So back in 1917, the first issue of Forbes had on the cover of the magazine, women in business. So I mean, that, in and of itself is so on the forefront of you know, what anyone was talking about? This, of course, is before women were voting or anything, what how does that make you feel?

Moira Forbes 8:06
Yeah, it’s It’s extraordinary. And when I launched our women’s platform now back in 2006, right at a time where we weren’t having conversations around, you know, gender equity and and the like, it was extraordinary. When I looked back at that first issue, no one had been talking about that prominently on the bottom right hand corner of the first issue. There was a dedicated department, which my great grandfather called a unique department on women in business. And he wrote in that very first issue that someday, women will work side by side with men, not for them. And subsequent issues. He talked about women who were starting to change the face of industries, also, particularly at the time of you know, World War One and World War Two where these different, larger events change the opportunities for women to be more active participants. And so for us, it’s always been a part of our DNA access to opportunity has always been been a through line for us, whether that be in terms of gender, but also just the power of entrepreneurship to lift countries to lift people to lift societies out of poverty, that it really comes back to opportunity. And how can we add forms be a tool to help people achieve success? The other thing that my great grandfather wrote, In that first issue was that business was originated to produce happiness not to pile up millions, he always had a sense of a higher purpose in terms of what business represented, and what success represented. And if it was purely about wealth, personal wealth, then then you were never going to be successful within your industry or arena. And that’s been really fortunate for me because to be a brand and especially a brand that’s been thriving for over a century. You have to have a sense of purpose. And you have to have a North Star. Because in those times that huge transformation and disruption, whether it be caused by external factors or internal events, that Northstar allows you to continue to follow and stay focused on the things that ultimately matter and ultimately define who you are and your ability to deliver on that mission.

Kara Goldin 10:22
So you first joined the business in 2001, in the London office, and since then you’ve launched different publications under the Forbes brand, but also champion the women’s initiative, as you just mentioned. So talk to me about how that came about. Obviously, you guys have have definitely touched on and you had women on the cover on the first issue. You’ve you’ve talked about women be more in leadership roles, and really followed the trends as the 1900s moved on. So I’d love to hear overall, like, why did you want to launch this initiative,

Moira Forbes 11:00
the reason why I’m to launch it was just really simple. When I was looking for people to inspire me or learn from or who I felt, followed a path that was one that I could learn from, there were a lot of women being profiled or featured. The stories of women even though it’s been a part of our DNA, still, we’re woefully underrepresented in, you know, in terms of the larger conversations around business, Forbes, you know, has always been known for lists, or Forbes 400, our wealth list, you know, something women power women, you know, those were the two two lists we launched more recently in women’s space. But we’ve always been known for these lists. And my remit was to personally, I wanted to change the face of those lists, because there were so few women and I was looking for inspiration and insight from how women navigated their careers. Even if it’d be different careers, different career choices, I was still pretty early in my career, and I couldn’t find it. So that’s why I decided to launch it because I had a need and avoid that I wanted to help personally. And I knew also it represented something much larger in terms of the opportunity for us at Forbes to really storytel around both the challenges and opportunities for women to be a more active, you know, active participants and leaders within the business community in the US and abroad. I will say it was a very difficult thing to launch. It was something at the time where no one was having conversations around, you know, Woody, when we would go to advertisers and clients, the initiative started as a magazine, which I love. But when we go to advertisers, they would say it would come out of their CSR budget, you know, corporate social responsibility, you would go to a bank, and they would say, Yeah, we know we’re under delivering to marketing to women, but we don’t have a budget to, to market to women. And you’re like, Well, how much of your customer base 50%. So it was extraordinary to me at the time to see the disconnect in terms of the market opportunity, and how brands and services and companies were approaching it. So really was an uphill battle, to be able to build the business around it. There were definitely these watershed moments or turning points that were really, I think, important in terms of the social and cultural fabric of this country that changed that helped people really see and understand the importance, but it was definitely not easy. And it was such a personal passion of mine, that, that there was no other choice but to continue to find ways to build on it, even if it may not have been through the ways that we initially set out to. I

Kara Goldin 13:46
love hearing from people like yourself, who would probably not define yourself as an entrepreneur. But in many ways, just being a disruptor starting new businesses inside of large businesses, as you’ve done over and over again, is what great entrepreneurs do and finding the problems and solving the problems and really trying to use your voice and and obviously the brand that has been you know, so there for over 100 years. I mean, I really admire everything that you’ve done, the more research I did on you. I’ve known you for a while, but I was just really blown away, frankly, by everything that you’ve done. So it’s really, really cool. So you started the Forbes power Women’s Summit. And I guess is it the 10 year anniversary and your anniversary? Yep. So over the last 10 years, you’ve illuminated or amplified conversations about women’s issues to drive progress. I’d love to hear sort of how that’s changed from the beginning and how you know what you’re seeing today? Well, first

Moira Forbes 14:53
and foremost, when I think about this topic of power, we’ve also done a power woman’s list for many, many years. First, which was really interesting to me is the fact that the word power was embraced very differently a decade ago. I remember when we would certain women I knew who would be featured prominently, Arnold listed the 100 World’s Most Powerful Women, they actually would shy away from it, they did that I’m not that there was one of the most iconic, powerful women in tech, who I was at an event. And there was the power women’s list that was blown up on you know, those stanchions and I said, let me take a picture of you in front of it. I’m like, This is so cool. And she said, I can’t I am not that powerful. I’m in the top 10. I mean, I’m this is, and she got uncomfortable. And she finally my assistant said to me, Look, you just have to own it. It’s exciting. And so the word power, I think, was one that comes with a lot of associations, oftentimes with women, when we talk about for for women, or we talk about ambition, there’s a different set of language or expectations are ways in which that women can state their ambition or talk about power. So we’re that that I think women wanted more porn and power at the time, far too often represented hard power. And whether that be, you know, currencies, or constituents, you know, people and money, and they didn’t want to talk about in terms of hard power, power to them often was, was really in the context of influence, and how to affect change. So first, the power conversations have changed dramatically. Now, that’s the term we so many women embrace, and run toward, and really are looking for ways to build their power, pay that power forward and empower others. And that’s been a really positive set of dynamics. The other thing I would say to 10 years ago, when we started this women’s Initiative, a lot of people said, I don’t want to be recognized just because I’m a woman, I don’t want to go to an event to Sunday, I want there to be no power men’s list or to be, you know, conference dedicated to women. And well, I understood that you don’t want to be necessarily called out exclusively for your gender, right, you want to be seen and called out for your contributions and your talent and your skills in the context of both men and women. To me, I got frustrated, because it was also an untapped opportunity to provide inspiration, and to spotlight the progress that women are making in different categories. And I never saw this as Forbes for women, it was a way to have a different set of conversations. And it was added to additive to what we were doing at Forbes. I mean, literally some people said I will I don’t want to go to a Forbes women’s event I want to do Forbes event, like it is a Forbes event, this is just a dynamic of the conversation that we feel like has explored been explored more fully. The last thing I’ll say about power, is that even we started to them, I think we’ve continued to take a much more expansive definition of power. And as I said earlier, far too often, I think people associated power with had to be a CEO or head of state. And of course, that’s incredibly powerful. But more and more people recognize the importance of soft power, that is the ability to impact change the ability to convene people and to collaborate, the ability to use your influence for the greater good. What that’s also meant is our definition of who is a powerful woman has expanded because it you don’t have to be in a corner office to be able to use your voice and to drive change. So for me that that it’s more expansive approach to power. The fact that your voice and your platform are these incredible opportunities to be a change agent, and to be powerful, is something that I think wasn’t appreciated then. So that has been through this through line of continuing to expand the definition of power, but the fact that all of us have it. And far too often, we don’t appreciate how much power we actually have, and how easy it is for us to deploy in both ways that are really small that add up over time or more monumental ways.

Kara Goldin 19:08
Your upcoming conference is in September. What is the exact date it is September 15, September 15, very exciting

Moira Forbes 19:16
for hosting an invitation only live event. So it’d be great to be back in person. And we’re also live streaming the event. So one of the silver linings of the pandemic was this need and ability to scale these live conversations. He’s really really interesting conversations and ways, you know, to engage with other like minded women. And so we held the summit virtually for two years and both years we had around 20,000 attendees. Wow. And we’re continuing to do that. Because yes, there is a dynamic to the live component that is, you know, this extraordinary experience, but not all people can attend the live event, you know, it’s geography time, whatever it may be, and so I’m so excited that now there’s much people are more willing to experience content virtually, but that we have this opportunity to really amplify the insights share it, because it’s extraordinary voices, and so many people can benefit from learning from

Kara Goldin 20:18
them. I think you’re right, that the pandemic, you know, it’s the one good thing that came out of it. Maybe there’s a couple more, but just to be able to be virtual and be someplace outside of New York, maybe you are not in a C suite, or not typically able to go to your conference. Now you can. So that is a great, great opportunity. And we’ll definitely put the link in the show notes for sure for people to sign up for it as well. I’m super curious. You talked about the power of now, which is the summit, this year’s theme. How do you think the pandemic has influenced how women think about leading, and women in business overall, we’ve heard of the great resignation, we’re also obviously women left the workforce, I don’t think they left by choice. Often, women were making less money. They had to deal with childcare, all of these things. So where are we at now? Now that we’re going back to live events when people are going back in the office? I mean, let’s hope Touchwood. I know, right? Where do you think we are in business? Like where what are women who you consider powerful? Hopefully, they consider themselves powerful? What are they thinking right now,

Moira Forbes 21:45
undoubtedly, the pandemic had a negative disproportionate impact on women and the hard won gains of you know, the recent decade or more, were threatened or have been erased. And that’s, you know, that’s obviously a real issue. But the flip side is, there’s never been a greater call to action in terms of being able to address the root problems and the root challenges, challenges that the pandemic expose things on things such as access to childcare, right, paid leave, some of the greatest barriers that were preventing women from going into remaining in the workforce, are ones that came to the surface and Earth were at the forefront. It also became a set of issues that women weren’t just talking about, you know, CEOs of companies, leaders, were seeing the challenges in their own homes, they were seeing it, you know, behind us, right, when my kids are popping up on zooms, the realities and the challenges in terms of women predominantly burying the majority of household responsibilities, and men starting to see how much more that exists, and then having to play a greater role or having to understand how their companies could support that, I think has been really, really transformative. So we went from this problem that we knew existed, to really a set of challenges that became at the forefront of every leadership agenda. Not all companies are going to solve it. They’re not necessarily all going to take it as seriously as they should. But it became a really active set of conversations and suitable solutions that that came, came to bear in a very, very short period of time. The other thing that came to the forefront, at least in my mind was in order to build a more resilient future. In order to build a more resilient economy, more resilient society, women have to be at the forefront, women have to be in positions of leadership in terms of shaping decisions, shaping policy building, the transformative businesses of the future. And when we look at an economy, not just here in the US where 50% of the world’s population, right, there’s like a, such an untapped and extraordinary opportunity that exists from a talent and an economic perspective, when we can bring more women into the workforce and create more equitable opportunities to ascend, to gain power, use power, build wealth, give back to communities, you know, that is fundamental. So there’s a window of opportunity that exists right now. And there is a sense of urgency that exists, that we need to be pushing these changes through. So what conversations that were on the sidelines are really only been focused on by people who had this deep commitment, these conversations and the realization that the real problems are are now front and center. So again, I always look for the silver lining. And I’ve actually never been more optimistic about the opportunities for women, not just here in the US, but in the world in terms of, as I said, the the conversations that are being had the ways in which we can drive change in a very, very short period of time. Thank It’s not just because the pandemic but things in general, just the rate of change that would have taken sort of years or decades can happen overnight. And one thing that really, you know, last night was just doing some some research online. And I read that like that in Switzerland, you know, women had only had the right to vote for 50 years, like that’s like, this got to be wrong, don’t get me wrong, like 1971 women getting the right to vote in Switzerland, one of the last European countries, but to me that was just talking right? 50 years is not a long time. And so when we look at where we were, even when I started or work in the women’s space today, right now, year by year, it’s just the progress is getting faster and faster.

Kara Goldin 25:43
Forbes power Women’s Summit, we’ll have the link in the show notes. And it was such a pleasure to speak to you, Maura and nice to see you wish I could give you a hug. And

Moira Forbes 25:57
hopefully we will film and care, I have to thank you. Because as I said, sort of you are someone who exemplifies what we do at Forbes, why we do it. And you’ve been someone who has not only built this extraordinary business, but you also have paid that power forward, you’ve been such a champion of sharing your story and offering insights and access to other entrepreneurs, and being so generous with your time to do that. So I’m grateful for that. I know so many people have benefited from the work that you’ve led, not just in building an extraordinary company, but to be able to share those insights and convene important conversation so grateful to you because that people like you, we wouldn’t have the brand.

Kara Goldin 26:39
Oh, so nice. Well, it’s been a pleasure definitely to contribute to Forbes and and to get to know you over the years as well. So thank you so much. And thanks, everybody, for the Listening. Listening to this incredible episode. We hope you enjoyed it, definitely give it five stars, helps with the algorithm a lot. And subscribe to the Kara Goldin show if you have not already. And just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin with Moira, where’s the best place to find you?

Moira Forbes 27:12
Anywhere on social media on Forbes. Luckily, when you have a name, that’s hard to spell it a little bit different. It’s easier to Google you

Kara Goldin 27:21
exactly my reforms. And we’re here every Monday, Wednesday, and we’ve recently added Friday. And thank you, everybody for listening today and have a great rest of the week. Thanks all for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed it. And I want to thank all of our guests and our sponsors. And finally, our listeners keep the great comments coming in. And one final plug if you have not read or listened to my book undaunted, please do so you will hear all about my journey, including founding, scaling and building the company that I founded. Hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening