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raceAhead: Fortune's Businessperson Of The Year, Trouble in the Oil Patch, Read This Book

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang onstage at an Nvidia event in San Jose. Photo: Kim Kulish—Corbis

Fortune’s Businessperson Of The Year for 2017 was announced today. As a list, it’s part head — an analysis of 12- and 36-month increases in profits, revenues, stock performance and return on capital — and whole lot of heart.

Say the editors: “We lean toward CEOs with vision—those impacting the world beyond their companies.” The 20 all-star executives that make up the list “are doing nothing less than defining the future of business.”

The list is notably diverse in terms of gender. And while CEOs from Asian communities are well-represented, black, African American and Native American leaders remain conspicuously absent.

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But don’t let that diminish your enthusiasm for this terrific profile of Jen-Hsun “Jensen” Huang, the tattooed CEO and co-founder of the semiconductor and software company Nvidia, who comes in at number one. While Nvidia doesn’t have the headline-grabbing style of an Apple or Uber, it certainly deserves to; it’s been growing profits at better than 50% annually and its share price has risen from $30 to above $200 in two years.

You can see where the company ranks in terms of diversity in the tech sector here. (They also recently participated in Calvert’s Diversity Report, which examines the diversity practices of companies within the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index and the S&P 250. While they were not individually scored, the scoring practices described are fascinating.)

From Andrew Nusca’s cover story:

Most Fortune 500 CEOs over 50 don’t have tattoos, let alone of the logos of the companies they run. But Huang, who was born in Taiwan, isn’t most Fortune 500 CEOs. For starters, he’s the rare cofounder still running his company 24 years later. He is both a trained electrical engineer (Oregon State; Stanford), and a formidable executive who leads employees with encouragement, inquiry, and often flurries of vacation emails. (Sent during his, not theirs.) And he is, according to many people in the industry, a visionary who foresaw a blossoming market for a new kind of computing early enough to reposition his company years in advance.

But Huang really excels as a leader who has cultivated a long-standing culture of intellectual rigor, truth, and basic decency:

For a publicly traded technology company with more than 11,000 employees, Nvidia is surprisingly tight-knit. It’s a credit to the many long-serving staffers who remain at the company (badge numbers are issued in serial; the lower the number, the longer the tenure) and the business battles they’ve endured together. It’s also the product of a founder CEO who embraces community, strategic alignment, and a core value system that promotes the pursuit of excellence through intellectual honesty.

All of which they’ll need if they’re going to be designing the algorithms that will run the world. Which, if our charts and graphs are right, they most certainly will be. Enjoy.

On Point

Report: African American communities at higher risk for pollution-related health problems You can blame the oil patch. The report is a joint effort between the advocacy group Clean Air Task Force (CATF) and the NAACP. Titled Fumes Across the Fence-Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Facilities on African American Communities, it finds alarming health problems within black communities that are directly related to oil and gas activity. Some 1 million African-Americans live within half a mile of an oil and gas operation, and 6.7 million — about 14 percent of the national population — live in a county with a refinery. As a result, these communities are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals, natural gas emissions which trigger asthma attacks, and hazardous emissions exposing them to a higher-than-normal risk of cancer. NBC News

Author Jesmyn Ward is having a really good year Last night, Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for fiction on Wednesday night for her novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a beautiful and wrenching examination of race, ghosts, addiction, family, and life in post-Katrina rural America. It is the second such award for the Mississippi native; in her acceptance speech, she reminded the audience that conventional wisdom did not predict her success. “They said, ‘Why should I read about a 13-year-old poor black boy or his neglectful, drug-addicted mother?’” she said. Smith is also a MacArthur Genius Award recipient, which surely means in the future that we’ll be reading about all sorts of people who never found their way into print before. New York Times

When information about your child’s gender transition is just an internet search away Writer Katelyn Burns raises some thorny questions in this timely piece: When the information about child’s gender transition is public, that information — and the target it puts on the back of entire families — never goes away. “For many parents of trans children, the impulse towards self-advocacy pulls the whole family into the media spotlight,” she explains. Early media reports shielded the identities of the children in question- who were often seeking basic rights, like bathroom choice. “And with trans people targeted by conservative politicians and radical feminists alike who seek to exclude them from public life, it’s getting harder to separate trans identity from activism.”How do you protect your family in a modern age? Splinter News

The Woke Leader

How to make an American Nazi Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the world’s biggest neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, is an interesting fellow. He’s the vile, doxing, foul-mouthed harasser known for calling on his “Stormer Troll Army,” to publicly threaten people – he once superimposed a photo of a 12-year-old Jewish kid onto a picture of Auschwitz during an online campaign of hate against his family. He also sees himself as part of a long line of racist organizers, looking to take the country back. “He dreams of a violent insurrection,” explains The Atlantic, and has the tech tools at his disposal to stoke one. A product of the Trumpian age, he was also not always like this. In this must-read profile, Anglin’s path to hate was long, strange and avoidable. It “fit a pattern that scholars have identified, in that he seems to have been driven, at least initially, more by a desire for status and belonging than by deeply held beliefs.” But stoking hate from an undisclosed location in Russia seems to be working – The Daily Stormer was Dylann Roof’s favorite read. The Atlantic

Looking for love from a wheelchair Dating is a tough business for anyone, but for people with disabilities, particularly women, it can be a particularly lonely experience. Women with physical disabilities begin dating later, are often unable to find partners or get married, and are more likely to experience intimate partner violence or emotional abuse. New York Times

When Presidents write, speak, call, telegraph and tweet The Smithsonian digs into the history of presidential communications, from the correspondence that arrived too late to stop the First Barbary War, to the lightning-fast tweets that have riled a nation. There are some fascinating nuggets to drop at holiday gatherings, but you’ll also find cautionary communication tales for all leaders to consider. Bottom line, think before you speak and choose your medium carefully. “Social media is more of an entertainment realm, and it turns foreign policy into entertainment,” says one professor. The Smithsonian

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