Myriad lists exist pointing to the richest people in various countries around the world, as well as in all 50 states. The overwhelming majority of individuals on such lists are men—unsurprising considering the history of discriminatory workplace practices, barriers to women’s wealth including barring women from having credit cards until the 1970s, and in income gap that leaves women earning $0.82 for every $1 men earn.
Madam C.J. Walker, purveyor of hair care and cosmetics for Black American women, is widely considered the first woman self-made millionaire in the U.S. Among the 500 richest people in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, self-made women account for less than 5%.
In 2016, Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told the New York Times that “the higher up you move in the income distribution, the lower the proportion of women … [which] shows that there is a fundamental form of inequality at the top related to gender.” This gender disparity is made even more clear by the fact that the number of female billionaires is growing half as fast as the number of male billionaires.
The women on the list have come upon their fortunes in various ways. Some, like the Waltons or the Pritzkers, are heiresses, inheriting wealth created by their families’ businesses. Others, like Thai Lee or Meg Whitman, are self-made. Still others built businesses with their husbands, like Marian Ilitch of Little Caesars Pizza and MacKenzie Scott of Amazon. Regardless of how these women came into their fortunes, their economic impact is undeniable.
Keep reading to see how many names you recognize.
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