The wealthiest people in the world are disproportionately male. Only five women —a paltry 1.4% of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, are self-made. Women generally also make up just 13% of the 500 richest people in the world.
On the other hand, men make up 63% of those who have built their fortunes. Most of the world’s top female billionaires amassed their fortunes through inheritance or divorce.
This article focuses on the top five self-made female billionaires according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. These women have left footprints in business, technology, and real estate that many other women are following.
Let’s briefly look at how they accomplished this.
The chairperson and co-founder of Longfor Properties, a Beijing-based real estate investment firm, is Chinese real estate tycoon Wu Yajun.
She is an engineering graduate who started her career at a gas meter company in Chongqing, where she also worked for some years as a journalist and editor.
How she started: She started studying at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an when she was 16 and left with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. After graduation, Wu was assigned to work at a state-owned factory in her hometown and worked there for four years, earning about $16 a month.
In 1993, after experiencing a plethora of problems trying to buy her first apartment, from a lack of natural gas to poor lighting and elevator service, Wu was inspired to start what would later become Longfor Properties with her husband at the time, Cai Kui.
In 1997, Longfor sold its first residential project in Wu’s home city, Chongqing, for $157 per square meter, which was more than twice the average Chinese household income at the time.
Ms Wu is now among the wealthiest women in China. Her private equity holdings, which include investments in tech companies like Uber and Evernote, account for a sizeable portion of her net worth.
According to Bloomberg data, Ms Wu has an estimated net worth of $10.1 billion as of the time of this writing.
The largest producer of chemical fibres in China, Fan Hongwei serves as the chairman of Hengli Petrochemical Company.
The company, which is based in Dalian, manufactures a variety of polyester chips and filaments for use in the apparel, packaging, electronic, and pharmaceutical sectors. In 2020, the company reported revenue of 178 billion yuan.
Ms Fan, 55, started her career as an accountant and now has a $5.18 billion net worth.
How she started: In the 1990s, Mr Chen worked as a silk and chemical fibre salesman. He and Ms Fan combined their resources and obtained a 3 million yuan bank loan to purchase a failing textile factory in Wujiang, Suzhou. She assumed the role of general manager.
The couple added petrochemicals and refining to their operations and transformed the 27-person business into one of the biggest weaving businesses in the world. According to Bloomberg, Ms Fan owns a 45% stake in Hengli Petrochemical.
Fan Hongwei, a small-town accountant, not only started from scratch with her husband but also jointly created a 700 billion Hengli Empire. In business operations, she also stood on the stage from time to time, taking charge of herself.
Zhou is the chairman of publicly traded consumer electronics supplier Lens Technology and one of the wealthiest women in China. The Chinese firm, which makes glass covers for cameras, computers, and cellphones, brought in 45.3 billion yuan ($7 billion) in revenue in 2021. Among its biggest clients are Samsung and Apple.
How she started: One of the wealthiest self-made female billionaires in the world is Zhou Qunfei. With $2,500 in savings and useful technical know-how from a prior job, Zhou Qunfei launched her first company in 1993, producing watch lenses. She created an effective lens business that employed over 1000 people over the following ten years with assistance from family members.
In March 2015, Zhou went public with Lens Technology and listed it on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. According to Bloomberg, the company, which has tens of thousands of employees throughout China, had a value of $19.7 billion as of May 2021.
One of the richest self-made women in the world, Zhou Qunfei, is well known. She has a current net worth of $5.42 billion as of the time this article was written.
Melanie Perkins co-founded the design program Canva in 2013, and even those who haven’t heard of her are likely to have used it. Together with technical co-founder Cameron Adams and her now-husband Cliff Obrecht, Ms Perkins founded the business in Sydney, Australia.
Although the graphic design start-up initially encountered investor scepticism, it now has more than 60 million active users every month across more than 190 countries, and businesses like Marriott, Salesforce, Intel, and PayPal are among those that subscribe to its enterprise plan.
How she started: Ms Perkins, who is also the CEO of Canva, displayed an early aptitude for entrepreneurship. She launched her first company at the age of 14 and began selling handmade scarves in local Perth shops and markets. Fusion Books was founded by her and Mr Obrecht at the age of 22 in her mother’s kitchen. It is currently Australia’s biggest publisher of yearbooks.
Perkins’s dream of building a graphic design platform that was easy to use with limited design skills came to be true with Canva. The platform has been an amazing alternative t Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator where the users have endless options for designing unique graphics.
Even when Adobe dominates the global market, Canva has an active user base of more than 30 million across 190 countries.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ms Perkins, 34, who is of Filipino and Sri Lankan ancestry, has a net worth of $5.9 billion.
Falguni Nayar defies the common “40 Under 40” compilation lists as someone who started her entrepreneurial journey just a few months shy of the age of 50. She is the only woman to head a unicorn in India and is the founder and chief executive of the e-commerce company Nykaa. Start-ups that are privately held and valued at more than $1 billion fall under this category.
Ms Nayar made the company public in November. Within a day, the value of the company had increased by 89%, to about $13 billion, though the price has since dropped.
How she started: Ms Nayar, 59, launched Nykaa in 2012 to sell cosmetics online, upending a market reliant on tiny corner stores. The business quickly rose to prominence as India’s top online beauty retailer, carrying 300 domestic and foreign brands. Demo videos featuring some of India’s best-known actors and celebrities helped boost sales. Currently, the company runs 84 physical stores across the nation.
Before founding Nykaa, Ms Nayar worked for Kotak Mahindra Bank, a private lender, for about 20 years. She ended her tenure there as managing director of investment banking.
Bloomberg‘s data estimates her net worth to be $6.5 billion.
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