The women who rule the business world
Forbes’ annual billionaires' list has long been dominated by men, although fortunately things are beginning to change.
These super-rich female entrepreneurs, CEOs and businesswomen have made their way to the top entirely off their own backs, through ventures including transportation, mining, clothing and technology.
Sheryl Sandberg made her name as chief operating officer at Facebook, a position which she’s held since 2008. Prior to that, the Harvard economics graduate worked at Google, quickly rising up the ranks to become vice president of its global sales and operations.
Her time at Facebook has been marked by an outspoken advocacy for women’s success in the workplace, something which she has written about in her best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. She’s taken the company from operating at a $56 million loss in 2008 to $22.1 billion in profits in 2018.
Together with husband Juan Roig, Hortensia Herrero (pictured center) built the Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona, which they bought from Roig’s father in 1981, expanding it from just eight stores to 1,635 stores today. She currently serves as vice president and owns almost 28% of the company.
The privately-owned company, which prioritizes sustainability and shares 25% of its pre-tax profits with employees, has recently expanded into Portugal. Herrero and Roig have four daughters, all of whom are board members of Mercadona, while Roig’s brother Fernando is also a shareholder in the company.
Elaine Wynn (pictured left) is the current largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts, a casino and hotel empire which she co-founded with her ex-husband, Steve Wynn, in 2002. Prior to that, the pair ran Las Vegas-based Mirage Resorts for 27 years before selling it in 2000. Recently, Steve Wynn has been mired in controversy. As a result of sexual harassment allegations, which he denies, he stepped down as CEO in 2018, leaving former company President Matthew Maddox to fill his place. Elaine Wynn served as a board member until 2015 and now, aged 77, focuses on art collecting and philanthropy.
Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has a few impressive accolades to her name: She’s the only woman to have started and run her own major commercial airline, VietJet Air; and the first self-made female billionaire in Vietnam. Thao founded airline VietJet Air in 2007 and since then it’s gone from strength to strength, operating 40% of Vietnam’s flights.
The savvy businesswoman put large advertising budgets into her early expansion of the airline, helping it to make a name for itself, and it soon expanded from a few domestic routes to servicing 120 destinations. VietJet went public on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange in 2017, with a valuation of $1.4 billion, and the airline’s expansion shows no sign of slowing down.
Arguably the best-known name on this list, Oprah Winfrey built her wealth off the back of an impressive television, business and media empire. The businesswoman is most famous for her eponymous Oprah Winfrey Show, a daytime talk show which rose to success in the 1980s, becoming the highest-rated TV talk show in the U.S. and earning a number of Emmy awards.
She’s also starred in a number of movies, launched her own magazine, co-founded a women’s cable television network and, more recently, signed a partnership deal with Apple to produce TV series for its streaming service. Her philanthropic donations total $425 million, which includes more than $100 million to her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
Doris Fisher, 89, co-founded The Gap clothing brand in 1969 with her late husband, Donald Fisher. The business came about because Donald had struggled to find jeans that fit him, so after raising $63,000 in funds they opened their first store in San Francisco, and the rest is history.
Doris worked as the company’s merchandiser for more than 30 years, stepping down in 2003 but continuing to sit on the company’s board until 2009. Nowadays, there are more than 3,700 Gap Inc. stores worldwide, which include the namesake brand as well as Banana Republic, Old Navy, Intermix, Hill City and Athleta. Doris is a prolific philanthropist, having donated more than $60 million to the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), which helps low-income children prepare for college.
Businesswoman Johnelle Hunt, 88, earned her fortune through co-founding and running a successful transportation company, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, along with husband JB. The couple started out running a rice hull packaging company in the 1960s in Arkansas, branching out into the transportation industry in 1969 with just five trucks and seven trailers.
Hunt held a position at the company and served on its board until 2008, when she retired. Since the death of her husband in 2006, she has taken a prominent role in projects run by her company, Hunt Ventures, which includes a retail and restaurant development project in Rogers, Arkansas.
In 2018, Zhou Qunfei was the richest self-made woman in the world. However, her fortune has plummeted from $9.8 billion to $3 billion in just two years.
Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Zhou, 50, came from a poor rural background and first worked in a factory. She founded Lens Technology, which makes the glass used to cover laptops and smartphones, in 1993 as a watch lens workshop in Shenzhen, China. Today, Lens Technology has contracts with giants such as Samsung, Apple and Tesla – but U.S. tariffs on China, plus Elon Musk's resignation as Tesla chairman, have hit the business, and Zhou's wealth, hard.
With a rather healthy bank balance of $3.4 billion, tech mogul Meg Whitman, 63, is best known for her roles as CEO of eBay, held for a decade, and Hewlett-Packard, which she headed for four years. During her tenure, eBay’s revenue jumped from $5.7 million to $8 billion annually. Hewlett-Packard was famously broken up into HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise under her leadership. Whitman is now CEO of short-form video platform Quibi.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, 66, founded Biocon India in 1978 quite by accident – she had trained as a brewer but said she faced such “hostility and gender bias” that she changed tack and set up a biotech start-up. With a net worth of $3.5 billion, she is India’s only self-made woman, despite the country having a similar-sized population to China where there are many female success stories who feature on our list.
Biocon became the first company to gain approval from the USFDA for two different biosimilars of drugs used in cancer treatments, which has helped build Mazumdar-Shaw’s huge wealth. Husband John Shaw (pictured with his wife) is the company’s vice-chair. Mazumdar-Shaw has a philanthropic medical center, which she intends to use to create a sustainable, affordable cancer care model.
Zhang Xin is a Beijing-born former factory worker who saved to study in the U.K., gaining a masters in economic development. She returned home in 1994 and Zhang, 54, and husband Pan Shiyi founded real estate developer SOHO China, which has shaped the Beijing skyline.
Zhang made her name with Commune by the Great Wall, a compound of villas in a valley near the Badaling section of the wall, which is now a boutique hotel. SOHO China went public in 2007 and her rags-to-riches rise has earned her a fortune of $3.6 billion.
With a pharmacist for a father, Judy Faulkner, 76, took her computer science studies in an unusual direction for the 1970s by coupling them with medicine in her master’s degree. After developing a health records program, she built a company around it, Human Services Computing, in 1979 from a Wisconsin basement.
Human Services Computing became Epic Systems, and today the business has 10,000 employees. Faulkner, who is worth $3.6 billion, is media-shy but famed for dressing in costumes, from a wizard to Supergirl, at Epic’s annual company meeting.
Rita Tong Liu (pictured in the center), 71, turned a million-dollar gift from her banker father-in-law into a Hong Kong property portfolio and a personal fortune of $4 billion (£3.1bn). Her Gale Well Group started out in luxury real estate before moving into car parks and then commercial office space. She is pictured here donating $10 million (£7.7m) to the Caritas institute of Higher Education, which has named its business school after her.
Liu owns six entire buildings, including China Insurance Group Building and Austin Plaza, as well as floors in several of Hong Kong’s most iconic buildings such as the Grand Millennium Plaza and Shun Tak Centre (pictured at top). In October 2018 she sold the sixth floor of Hong Kong’s On Lok Yuen Building for $12.7 million.
As well as being the managing director and the largest individual shareholder of casino company SJM Holdings, Angela Leong, 58, is an elected Macau legislator. SJM Holdings is one of only six companies licensed to operate casinos in Macau, and has 19 casinos there.
She is the fourth wife of billionaire Stanley Ho (pictured), whose Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM) is behind SJM Holdings. Ho has 17 children, five with Leong. Leong also has a portfolio of properties in Hong Kong, Macau and China, the source of most of her personal wealth.
Marian Ilitch, 87, and late husband Mike (pictured together) co-founded Little Caesars Pizza in 1959. Both first-generation Americans born to Macedonian immigrants, they stayed close to their Detroit roots, buying the Detroit Tigers baseball team and Detroit Red Wings ice hockey team.
Ilitch, who has seven children, also owns Detroit’s MotorCity Casino and is now worth $4.1 billion. She is currently involved with the building of a sports and entertainment community, The District Detroit, of office, retail and residential blocks.
Chan Laiwa (also known as Chen Lihua), 79, is founder and chair of Fu Wah International Group, one of Beijing’s largest commercial real estate developers. Using her family’s own antiques she built an antique business and used it to invest in property, starting out in luxury apartments in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley.
Chan’s Fu Wah company is best known for its Jinbao Street luxury shopping development in Beijing. Chan, who is worth $5.8 billion, is also the curator of the China Red Sandalwood Museum.
In 2016 Diane Hendricks, 73, topped Forbes’ list of self-made women thanks to the Wisconsin roofing business she co-founded with her late husband. She was working as a Realtor when she met roofing contractor Kenneth Hendricks, who became her second husband. They had bought 100 houses together within three years of meeting and set up ABC Supply in 1982, selling roofing, windows and gutters.
Hendricks (left) was widowed in 2007 when her husband died after a fall at a construction site. In addition to ABC Supply, her Hendricks Holding Co. has some 30 companies under its umbrella, from manufacturing, transportation and logistics, to insurance. The couple had seven children, five of whom work at ABC Supply. While other self-made women's wealth has now surpassed hers, Hendricks is still worth $6.3 billion.
The only Briton on this list, Denise Coates built her $6.5 billion fortune from online gambling, particularly in-play betting, with the Bet365 brand, of which she and her brother John are co-CEOs. The business is the largest private employer in its home city of Stoke-on-Trent in England. In 2012 Coates was invested as a commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2012 (she's pictured with her medal).
A trained accountant with a degree in econometrics, Coates took the family’s bookmaker business and turned it into an online gambling giant. In 2018 she paid herself a record-breaking $418 million, and $343 million the previous year. The company also sponsors its local soccer team Stoke City's stadium (pictured).
Wu, 56, worked as a journalist before co-founding Longfor Properties in the early 1990s with her then-husband. In 1997, Longfor sold its first residential project in her home city of Chongqing. Longfor was one of the earliest shopping mall developers in China.
As of 2017, more than 300 million people had visited the group's malls. Pictured is Suzhou Longfor Paradise Walk mall, designed by JATO Design, which opened last year in Suzhou, China. Wu was the richest woman in China until her divorce in 2012 from Cai Kui. She lost some $3 billion in transferring 40% of her shares to him, but has rebuilt her wealth to $9.4 billion. Wu stepped down as chair in 2018 and handed her company shares over to her daughter, Cai Xinyi.
One of Australia’s most prolific businesswomen, Gina Rinehart built her fortune off the back of iron mining. Although she took over her father’s company, Hancock Prospecting, after his death in 1992, she turned it around from a debt-laden company into a highly profitable operation, so it’s fair to say her wealth is self-made.
It’s not just mining that’s responsible for her wealth. Under her direction, the Hancock Group began to invest in other industries including coal, property, beef and dairy – it’s Australia’s second-biggest beef producer with a herd of 320,000 cattle. However, Rinehart is something of a controversial figure: she holds strong views on what she believes to be excessive regulation and taxation of resources, and she has fought a high-profile legal battle with her children over their inheritances.
Published By: Bellaland.
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