The Richest Self-Made Women In America

There was a time when the women who ranked among the world’s richest people were exclusively heirs to fortunes created by men in their families. Thankfully, that era is long gone.

As of 2020, there are 100 billionaires who can call themselves self-made women, which is easily the highest total in history. Based on net worth estimates reported by Forbes as of May 22, 2020, we’ve rounded up the wealthiest self-made women in America, and you’ll find this list is full of entrepreneurs from widely diverse backgrounds and fields. Yet you might be surprised at just how few of these incredibly successful women you’ve actually heard of.

30. Sheila Johnson

Reported Net Worth: $820 million

There are only two African-American women on this list, and Sheila Johnson was the first to ever attain the status of billionaire. Her net worth is now slightly less than that threshold, but the co-founder of BET is still living mighty comfortably. She sold her stake in that groundbreaking cable network long ago but now works as CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, plus she has ownership stakes in three Washington pro sports teams: the NBA’s Wizards, NHL’s Capitals and WNBA’s Mystics.

She’s been a trailblazer in sports and TV programming, two fields that were typically known as old boy’s clubs.

29. Young Sohn

Reported Net Worth: $840 million

According to Forbes, Young Sohn’s impressive fortune comes from her large number of shares in the cloud-computing company Veeva Systems. She was a founding member of that company’s board of directors and sat on it from 2007 until 2014. After leaving Veeva, Sohn founded another cloud software firm, Vlocity, and she currently sits on its board. The Cornell graduate has a long history in tech, charting her career back to the mid-1980s when she worked at Oracle.

28. Tory Burch

Reported Net Worth: $850 million

Designer Tory Burch is not only one of the wealthiest women in fashion but one of the wealthiest women in any field. Her eponymous collection is sold at her own stores and other high-end retailers worldwide, giving her a brand name that holds weight with many consumers, including the 2.4 million people who follow her on Instagram. Like most women on this list, Burch has done a lot of philanthropy work, giving her time and money to issues like women’s rights in the workplace, education, fine arts and even serving as an ambassador for global entrepreneurship under President Barack Obama.

27. Kit Crawford

Reported Net Worth: $890 million

You might not know Kit Crawford’s name but you’ve probably eaten one of her products. She founded the company behind Clif Bars along with her husband in 1992, and the pair has run the company ever since. Crawford, who was born in Canada, has twice served as Clif Bar & Company’s CEO since 2007. In May 2020, Clif announced she would move away from the CEO role in favor of doing less day-to-day management and continuing to serve on the company’s board of directors.

26. Christel DeHaan

Reported Net Worth: $950 million

Christel DeHaan came to the United States from Germany in 1962 and eventually co-founded Resort Condominiums International. She made much of her fortune when she sold that company in 1996 and has been giving millions to charity since then, including a reported $6 million per year to her namesake organization, Christel House. DeHaan is viewed as an icon in her adopted hometown of Indianapolis, where she vigorously supports causes like the arts.

25. Weili Dai

Reported Net Worth: $960 million

Semiconductors have been a wellspring of wealth for many investors and entrepreneurs in the past 30 years, and Weili Dai was one of the first to find success in this area. The Chinese-born tech innovator co-founded Marvell Technology in 1995 alongside her husband and helped lead that company for more than 20 years. In 2016, the couple was forced out of their executive positions after Marvell stock had lost a significant amount of value in the previous year. Since then, Dai has used her fortune to invest in Las Vegas real estate.

21. Neerja Sethi (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1 billion

From here on out, we’re dealing with women who are self-made billionaires as of 2020. Neerja Sethi earned her place in that elite club by being an innovator in the field of information technology services. In 1980, Sethi co-founded Syntel in Michigan with her husband on an investment of $2,000. Both of them can be seen in the center of this photo, which was taken when Syntel first rang the NASDAQ bell.

The company would reportedly make $30,000 in its first year, quickly land General Motors as a client and eventually sell for a whopping $3.4 billion in 2018, landing this entrepreneur more than half of her current fortune.

21. Kylie Jenner (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1 billion

Easily the youngest member of the self-made women’s billionaire club, Kylie Jenner amassed her fortune at the age of 22, while the next-youngest person is 49. She’s the richest member of her famous family by far and can credit a brilliant bet on her own image as the source of her wealth. Jenner invested money she’d earned from modeling to create a makeup line called Kylie Cosmetics, using her 270 million combined social media followers as a massive free audience for promoting it. The plan worked and she sold 51% of her stake in the company for $600 million in 2019, according to Forbes.

21. Sara Blakely (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1 billion

Before she was dethroned by Kylie Jenner, Sara Blakely was the youngest self-made woman billionaire, earning her place on that list in 2012. Her massive bank account comes from her creation of Spanx, which became one of the most ubiquitous items found in closets worldwide this century. Blakely’s story is the stuff of hard-nosed entrepreneurial lore, with years of failures in different fields, including as a door-to-door fax machine salesperson, leading to the creation of her iconic shapewear.

21. Safra Catz (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1 billion

When you’re one of the most powerful people in tech, a billion-dollar net worth is kind of a given. That’s exactly what Safra Catz is, as the CEO of Oracle, one of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley. Catz started with the company in 1999 and has worked her way to the top of the ladder, holding positions including chief financial officer, president and member of the board of directors along the way. In 2019, Forbes named her among the world’s 15 most powerful women.

19. Jayshree Ullal (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.2 billion

Like some of the other women on this list, Jayshree Ullal spent her childhood in India before striking it rich in America. She’s a giant in the tech sector, thanks to her years of executive work at Cisco and Arista Networks. Ullal has been the CEO of Arista, a multibillion-dollar networking firm, since 2008. She also sits on the company’s board and serves as its president. According to Forbes, Ullal owns about 5% of the company’s stock.

19. Anastasia Soare (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.2 billion

When Anastasia Soare came to America from her native Romania, she worked long hours in a Los Angeles beauty salon and didn’t speak any English. Today, she’s one of the world’s most respected names in beauty and runs a brand that made her a billionaire. She pioneered the art of making eyebrows an essential part of the beauty regimen after founding her company, Anastasia Beverly Hills, in 1997. The line has more than 20 million followers on Instagram and counts style icons like Jennifer Lopez, the Kardashians and Michelle Obama among its clients.

16. Dr. Katie Rodan (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.4 billion

There are only two doctors on this list, and they are Dr. Katie Rodan and her business partner, Dr. Kathy Fields, whom we’ll get to in a moment. The pair met in the 1980s, while they were studying dermatology at Stanford. They would begin their climb to the top in 1995, when they developed the acne solution Proactiv. The popularity of that product made Rodan and Fields stars in the world of skincare — and very wealthy women.

16. Eren Ozmen (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.4 billion

In 2018, Forbes labeled Eren Ozmen an “unknown immigrant billionaire,” and she’s since earned a bit more fame for making bold moves in the new space race. The native of Turkey came to America as a college graduate when she was 23 years old, speaking little English but having a passion for aerospace, which led her to work as an intern at the Sierra Nevada Corporation. Ozmen and her husband eventually purchased SNC in 1994, and she currently serves as its president. Talk about moving up the corporate ladder!

16. Dr. Kathy Fields (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.4 billion

As mentioned before, Dr. Kathy Fields and her business partner, Dr. Katie Rodan, first became skincare magnates by creating Proactive in the 1990s. However, since 2000, they’ve become even more famous because of their eponymous skincare line, Rodan + Fields. They’ve owned the line themselves since buying it back from Estée Lauder in 2007 and helping grow it into a top company in the industry.

12. Elaine Wynn (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.7 billion

The “Queen of Las Vegas” has been the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts since 2018, when her ex-husband cashed out after sexual misconduct allegations. Elaine Wynn has been a major player in Las Vegas since the 1970s, when she co-founded Mirage Resorts before eventually co-founding Wynn Resorts in 2003. She’s also been called a “philanthropic heavyweight” because of the millions of dollars she’s pledged to causes like education and the arts.

12. Sheryl Sandberg (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.7 billion

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has inspired many women in the workplace, with her career record, her staggering wealth and her words. Sandberg’s 2013 book “Lean In” was a bestseller because of its unique take on being a high-powered woman in corporate America. Her fortune comes from being a major shareholder of Facebook stock since its early days, which helped her cross into the billionaire threshold in 2014. She was only 44 when that happened, making her one of the youngest women billionaires ever.

12. Gail Miller (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.7 billion

Women owners of major sports teams — like self-made women billionaires — aren’t very common, but Gail Miller’s story was built on unique success. The richest person in Utah started her fortune by turning a single car dealership she co-owned with her late husband into a fleet of 64 dealerships that reportedly earned more than $5 billion in sales in 2019. The couple also bought the NBA’s Utah Jazz in 1986 and have helped the franchise’s value explode from $22 million to $1.3 billion since then.

12. Peggy Cherng (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $1.7 billion

When Peggy Cherng left Hong Kong to go to college in Kansas in the 1960s, it would put her on the path to becoming one of the most powerful people in fast food. She met her husband as a student and eventually earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering before the two founded Panda Express in 1983. Since then, the chain has grown into an empire, leading the couple to share more than $3 billion between them, safely putting Cherng in the class of billionaire businesswomen.

11. Alice Schwartz

Reported Net Worth: $2 billion

There are 70 years between the youngest person on this list and Alice Schwartz, who happens to be the most seasoned. This 93-year-old trailblazer co-founded Bio-Rad Laboratories in 1952, along with her husband, a fellow graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Today, Schwartz still sits on the biotech firm’s board of directors and is its largest shareholder, while her son is the CEO. You can see her in the photo below, flanked by her son and late husband.

10. Doris Fisher

Reported Net Worth: $2.2 billion

Doris Fisher’s fortune has taken a bit of a hit in recent years, but the fact that she still has a reported $2.2 billion after that turbulence shows how impressive her wealth has been. In 1969, she co-founded The Gap with her late husband, and that’s been the source of her immense fortune. Sales figures for the fashion giant hit a major slump in 2019, causing her family to lose a reported $1 billion combined, but she remains one of the most successful self-made women in history.

9. Oprah Winfrey

Reported Net Worth: $2.6 billion

There’s probably no self-made woman billionaire as famous as Oprah Winfrey, and she continues to grow her profile. She made a ton of money on her beloved daytime talk show, which she hosted for 25 years, turning her name into one of the most respected brands in media. Her profile now includes an entire empire, including a magazine, a cable network and major stakes in other companies, including WW, formerly Weight Watchers.

8. Lynda Resnick

Reported Net Worth: $2.8 billion

If you check your pantry right now, chances are you’ll find one of Lynda Resnick’s products. It’s been estimated that nearly half of Americans buy something from Wonderful Products, the company she co-founded with her husband. The company’s ubiquitous brands include Fiji bottled water, Pom Wonderful juice, Halo mandarin oranges and Wonderful Pistachios. In 2019, the California residents gave a whopping $750 million to the California Institute of Technology, which still leaves Resnick with nearly $3 billion of her own.

6. Judy Love (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $2.9 billion

When Judy Love and her husband bought an old gas station in Oklahoma in 1964, they probably couldn’t imagine how big their empire would become in the next few decades. Today, there are hundreds of Love’s Travel Stops across the country, with locations in 41 states. The company has remained privately owned and Love herself is still an employee, serving as executive secretary. In 2010, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame for her entrepreneurial success and generous philanthropic work in her home state.

6. Johnelle Hunt (tie)

Reported Net Worth: $2.9 billion

If you’ve bought anything in the past 6o years, there’s a chance it arrived at the store thanks to Johnelle Hunt’s trucks. In 1961, she co-founded J.B. Hunt Transport Services with her late husband. Today, she’s still the majority shareholder in the company, which has become one of the largest trucking firms in the world. Not bad for an investment that started with just five trucks in Arkansas.

5. Thai Lee

Reported Net Worth: $3 billion

In 2015, Forbes called Thai Lee a “modest tycoon” and proclaimed her company the biggest woman-owned business in America. You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of SHI International, which is one of the largest IT services companies on the planet. Lee was born in Bangkok, graduated from Harvard Business School and worked at major American companies like Procter & Gamble and American Express before founding SHI International in 1989 and turning it into a powerhouse.

4. Marian Ilitch

Reported Net Worth: $3.8 billion

If you know anything about Detroit, you probably know about the Ilitch family and its matriarch, Marian. Along with her late husband, she co-founded the massive pizza chain Little Caesar’s in 1959. That company helped turn Ilitch into one of the richest self-made women in the world. Her other business ventures include owning the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and MLB’s Detroit Tigers, as well as a casino in the Motor City.

3. Judy Faulkner

Reported Net Worth: $3.9 billion

In 2017, Judy Faulkner was dubbed the richest self-made woman in tech. As of 2020, that’s no longer true, but she’s still right near the top of the list. Faulkner is the founder and CEO of Epic Systems, which provides integrated healthcare software to hospitals across the country. She started the company in a basement in 1979 and has grown it into the biggest tech firm based in Wisconsin, employing nearly 10,000 people as of 2016.

2. Meg Whitman

Reported Net Worth: $4.6 billion

The wealthiest self-made woman in tech today is Meg Whitman. Her legacy as a corporate leader is the stuff of legend in Silicon Valley, as she helped make eBay into a juggernaut while she worked as its CEO from 1998-2008. Whitman led that auction site from generating $5.7 million in sales to $8 billion in a decade. After that, she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 2011-2015, earning more praise (and cash) in the process. She’s currently the CEO of the new streaming video platform, Quibi.

1. Diane Hendricks

Reported Net Worth: $8.9 billion

Diane Hendricks is the wealthiest self-made woman in America, and it’s really not even close. Her incredible fortune — which is greater than that of male magnates like Charles Schwab, George Lucas and Rupert Murdoch — has come from her role as co-founder of ABC Supply. That privately-owned company is the largest wholesale roofing distributor in America, according to Forbes. The photo below shows Hendricks at a groundbreaking event in her hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin, where she’s donated plenty of money and time to various community efforts.