It was a record-setting year for women on the Forbes Billionaires list, with 138 in the ranks, up from 104 last year. Plus there were also more who started their own businesses, 24. It is a reason for celebration but also for consternation: Only 1.7 percent of all billionaires—and only 17 percent of the female listees—are self-made women. Here are the top 10
Rosalia Mera $6.1 billion
Mera is now the wealthiest self-made woman on the planet, thanks in part to a 50 percent jump this past year in the value of Inditex, the fashion retailer she co-founded with her ex-husband Amancio Ortega, the world’s third-richest man. She dropped out of school at age 11 to work as a seamstress, then helped Ortega make dressing gowns and lingerie in their home. The couple has long been divorced, but she still has a stake in the company, best known for its Zara brand. Her Paideia Foundation works to integrate people with physical and mental disabilities, like her son Marcos, into larger society.
Wu Yajun $4.3 billion
CHINA, REAL ESTATE
A former journalist, Wu started property developer Longfor in 1994. She and her team turned it into a national brand, and it’s now headquartered in Beijing. She was previously China’s richest woman, but her divorce last year knocked her from the top spot.
Chan Laiwa $4.1 billion
CHINA, REAL ESTATE
Chan was born poor but is now one of the rare self-made female billionaires in the world. Her Fu Wah International Group is one of Beijing’s largest real estate developers, having developed nearly 1.5 million square metres of property since its inception in 1988.
Diane Hendricks $3.8 billion
She started ABC Supply, now the nation’s largest roofing, window and siding wholesale distributor, with her husband, Kenneth, and took over when he died in 2007. In addition to ABC, Hendricks presides over 25 million square feet of commercial property and 25 smaller companies via Hendricks Holdings.
Zhang Xin $3.6 billion
CHINA, REAL ESTATE
Zhang and her husband, Pan Shiyi, founded Soho China in Beijing in 1995 and have continued to aggressively buy up real estate in Beijing and Shanghai, transforming the cities’ skylines. Soho China is now Beijing’s largest property developer. Prior to founding it, Zhang worked on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs and Travelers Group.
Doris Fisher $2.8 billion
She started the Gap with her late husband, Donald, in 1969 as a San Francisco jeans and music store. These days she’s known as a prolific art collector and philanthropist, who has donated $120 million to the KIPP charter school network and Teach For America.
Oprah Winfrey $2.8 billion
The majority of Oprah’s net worth stems from 25 years of her profitable daytime-TV show, plus earnings from her Harpo pro-duction company, which has a hand in the Dr Phil, Rachael Ray and Dr Oz shows.
Marion Ilitch $2.7 billion
With her husband, Michael, Ilitch built a single pizza shop into the Little Caesar’s Pizza chain, which had over $3 billion in revenues last year. (Shares fortune with husband.)
Lynda Resnick $2.2 billion
Since the 1970s, master marketers Lynda and Stewart Resnick have built or bought companies, including POM Wonderful, Fiji Water and flower-delivery service Teleflora. They also own pistachio, almond and citrus farms, plus a winery. (Shares fortune with husband.)
Giuliana Benetton $2 billion
Benetton formed clothing retailer Benetton Group with her siblings in 1965. Giuliana originally knitted sweaters that her brother Luciano would peddle by bicycle; they were sold under a variety of labels before be-coming United Colors of Benetton.
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(This story appears in the 05 April, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)