The top tier of wealth in the United States is essentially a boys’ club, with the main mention of women as the billionaires’ wives.
In fact, there are only four women breaking the top 50 in the world. However, there are still several women who have broken the $1 billion mark to become self-made billionaires.
Business Insider recently took a look at the richest self-made women in the world based on data from Wealth-X, a company that conducts research on the wealthiest people in the world.
The women on this list have founded businesses, pioneered new technology, and made massive advances in their fields. They include people like Oprah Winfrey and the less known Gap founder Doris Fisher.
Here are America’s 9 self-made billionaire women.
#1 – Diane Hendricks
Net Worth: $5.6 billion
Source of Wealth: ABC Supply Co.
Diane Hendricks went from being the daughter of Wisconsin dairy farmers to running Hendricks Holding Company and sitting on the board of ABC Supply, which she founded with her late husband Kenneth. The couple got into the building materials business after they purchased and remodeled more than 100 homes in Beloit, Wisconsin with the goal of getting into the wholesale roofing business.
The couple opened ABC Supply in 1982. The business expanded quickly and began selling building materials across the United States. Today, the company is the largest wholesale distributor of roofing materials in the country. It has more than 600 locations and makes more than $6.5 billion in sales.
Hendricks’ time is spent as chairman of the company and in the running of the holding company. She also strives to give back to the Beloit community. The billionaire serves as a trustee for Beloit College and has donated millions to local organizations.
#2 – Elizabeth Holmes
Net Worth: $4.5 billion
Source of Wealth: Theranos
At 32, Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest female self-made billionaire in the world. She dropped out of Stanford in 2009 to found Theranos. Her vision with the company was to create a pain-free, needle-free blood-testing company that reduced the cost for patients, as well as the stress involved in tests that require needles.
Theranos remained in stealth mode for its first 10 years of operation. Today, it offers over 240 tests direct to consumer. The tests range from detecting medical issues like high cholesterol to cancer. The company was valued in Fall 2015 at close to $10 billion.
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses for Holmes and her company. The company faced criticism in October for reportedly suspicious business practices that questioned the accuracy of the company’s blood tests. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed earlier this year that it found some of Theranos’ practices to “pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety” when it performed a routine inspection. The company has since submitted a plan to correct the issues.
#3 – Doris Fisher
Net Worth: $3.2 billion
Source of Wealth: Gap
Doris Fisher and her husband Donald broke into the denim business in 1969 with the first The Gap Store. The first store sold only jeans and music and was located on San Francisco’s Ocean Avenue. The brand originally sold only Levi’s but the Fishers soon created their own line of jeans. The business soon expanded to include shirts, sweaters, and other clothing options.
Gap went public less than 10 years later in 1976 and expanded across the United States and internationally. Along the way, the company dropped “The” from its name and picked up other brands, like Banana Republic. It launched Old Navy in 1994 and continued to grow.
While Gap has struggled in recent years to keep up with the newest generation, the company remains a relative behemoth with $15.8 million in sales. Fisher is no longer involved in the retail chain. Instead, the billionaire woman is an avid art collector. Some of her collection is displayed at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.
#4 – Jin Sook Chang
Net Worth: $3.1 billion
Source of Wealth: Forever 21
Jin Sook Chang and her husband Don opened Fashion 21 in 1984 three years after the South Korean immigrants moved to Los Angeles. They began with close to nothing to their names and pulled in $700,000 in sales in their first year. They expanded aggressively, changing the store’s name to Forever 21. The company now has more than 600 locations and generates $4.4 billion in sales per year.
Jin works at the retailer as the chief merchandising officer while her husband serves as the CEO. Their daughters Linda and Esther are the head of marketing and creative director, respectively.
#5 – Oprah Winfrey
Net Worth: $2.8 billion
Source of Wealth: Harpo Productions
Oprah Winfrey grew up in poverty in Mississippi before breaking into the media industry as a TV news anchor in Baltimore in the 1970s. Winfrey moved to Chicago in 1984 to host what would later become “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She became a household name in 1985 with her acting debut in “The Color Purple.” Her performance earned her an Oscar nomination.
Winfrey founded Harpo Studios in 1986 and hosted her talk show, which brought in $300 million a year at its peak. The Harpo empire expanded to include a book club, a women’s magazine, and the cable network Own.