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Women in Business List Included Men

April 10, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Four-hundred-and-ninety-eight business owners were thrilled to make Working Woman magazine’s list of the 500 largest woman-owned companies.

But for No. 25 Lynn Johnson and No. 387 Gale Burkett, the rankings caused some chagrin.

Those who knew them well were quick to point out that each failed one key criterion: They are decidedly male.

``I’ve been called a lot of things, but never chairwoman,″ Burkett said.

In Johnson’s case, perhaps the name of company should have been a clue: Johnson BROTHERS.

There were phone calls. There were titters _ enough, apparently, that Johnson declined to discuss the matter with a reporter. Johnson’s name appeared in an abbreviated list that accompanied an Associated Press story about the rankings earlier this week.

``There’s been enough giggles,″ his secretary said Friday.

Burkett learned of his fame from a colleague.

``This guy called me and says, `Did you just get back from Sweden?‴ said Burkett, who confirmed being born with both X and Y chromosomes. ``I said `No, why?.′ He said, `Isn’t that where you go for a sex change operation?‴

The confusion apparently stems from the fact that Burkett’s wife, Jean, is a vice president of his company, Houston-based engineering services company G.B. Tech. Working Woman’s criteria require that the main shareholder is a woman.

For the magazine, for and about professional women, assuming two corporate chiefs were women on the basis of their names alone proved an embarrassing presumption.

The magazine said it would correct the list in its July/August edition, out June 2.

Asked about Johnson, Working Woman spokeswoman Christina Duffney conceded, ``That does seem to be the case, that it is a male.″

Johnson, the 69-year-old chief executive of a St. Paul, Minn.-based liquor wholesaler with $520 million in annual sales, isn’t the only Lynn to have his gender bent.

Lynn Swann was an All-American, team captain and most valuable player on the University of Southern California’s football team before becoming the Pittsburgh Steelers’ star wide receiver.

``The first letter I received from USC after graduation was a solicitation for a contribution addressed to a Miss Lynn Swann,″ said Swann, now an ABC sports commentator. ``I still receive a variety of feminine hygiene products in the mail.″

Burkett probably isn’t alone among male Gales, added Swann, thinking of a Chicago Bears running back he once knew.

``I bet the same thing happens to Gale Sayers,″ he said.

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