A Record Number of Women Make Forbes’ Billionaire List

CareersPersonal Finance
Posted By Terri Williams on April 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm
A Record Number of Women Make Forbes’ Billionaire List

The new Forbes list of billionaires includes a record 56 self-made women, with a combined wealth of $129 billion. Self-made women represent 25% of all female billionaires. There are 15 newcomers on the list, and all but one are from Asia.

Below is the list of the top 10 female billionaires:

Name Net Worth Origin of wealth
1 Zhou Qunfei $7.4B Smartphone screens
2 Marian Ilitch & family $6.B Pizza and sports team
3 Chan Laiwa & family $5.6B Real estate
4 Pollyanna Chu $4.9B Financial services
5 Wu Yagun & family $4.5B Real estate
6 Lam Wai Ting $4.1B Smartphone screens
7 Diana Hendricks $3.9B Roofing
8 Rafaela Aponte $3.75B Shipping
9 Denise Coates $3.6B Online gambling
10 Zhang Xin & family $3.2B Real estate


Some of the other women on the list include Oprah Winfrey, Doris Fisher of Gap, Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard, Peggy Cherng of Panda Express, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Jin Sook Chang of Forever 21, Sara Blakely of Spanx, and Lucy Peng of Alibaba.

What’s Fueling this Growth?

Orit Hashay founded Brayola in 2013, and while she’s not a billionaire yet, Hashay’s company made $10 million in sales in 2016, and is projected to make $30 million this year.
Hashay describes the record number of women on the Forbes billionaire list in four words: “this is the future.”
“In the past, ‘success’ for women meant finding a wealthy husband and getting married,” she tells GoodCall.

In fact, a recent study found that “the marriage penalty” was a deciding factor in some women students avoiding STEM and business majors.

“Today, women are increasingly striking out on their own, starting their own businesses and making themselves successful – without the help of a man,” Hashay says.

She founded her company while she was pregnant, and says investors wanted her to wait until after she delivered her child before launching her business. They expressed concerns that Hashay might change her mind after she became a mother. It would not be the first time she refused to listen or be persuaded.

“I was once told to find a man to be the CEO of my company and manage me, but I knew that it wasn’t something that I – nor any of my peers – needed,” Hashay says. “Millennial women have been fearlessly breaking glass ceilings and represent the true embodiment of confidence, strength, and perseverance. They’re no longer dreaming about becoming successful; they’re meticulously planning it and making it a reality – the Forbes billionaire’s list attests to that.”

Women are also making strides in other ways. For example, women now make up half of all law school attendees. One business school is on track to reach gender parity in its MBA programs by 2020, and several schools are working to close the STEM gender gap.

Adryenn Ashley, a social media influencer and the founder of Wow, Is Me, Inc, tells GoodCall that the women on the list are unicorns, and adds, “And it looks like there are more of us on the way!”

Ashley believes these female billionaires have several things in common.

“They all have an unstoppable drive, insight into buying behavior, and no glass ceiling.” According to Ashley, unicorns do not believe that they are held back by men or have limited options. “They set a goal, they reach it – period.”

Golden age for women in business

Gerald Suarez, Ph.D., is a professor of the Practice in Systems Thinking and Design and a fellow in the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Change in the Department of Management and Organization at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business.

He tells GoodCall that women really have an innovative spirit and the capacity to solve problems in a very disciplined way. He says this theory is based on his dealings with entrepreneurs and executives and is supported by studies.

“I think they excel in their capacity to be impactful, and this gives them an edge as they develop a solution to a need,” Suarez says.

As a result, he says, women tend to be innovative from a pragmatic point of view – it’s the need to find a solution that drives them.

Suarez says that many people think they possess ingenuity, but in reality, they’re just being novel. However, he says that women are inclined to truly be innovative.

“Women tend to reinvest in their business, and they are less likely to react and drop out or quit – and that resiliency, that capacity to adapt really sets them apart.”

However, Suarez also believes that other factors are at work.

“More women are obtaining a college education, and this is opening new opportunities.”

In addition, he points to lower interest rates and more accessibility to commercial borrowing. And Suarez thinks perceptions may be changing.

“I think those who are investing in women are focusing on the business potential and not basing the decision on gender.”

And when all of these factors merge, he believes it is creating a golden era for female entrepreneurs that inspires other women to follow in their footsteps.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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