For decades, women have been trailblazers and waymakers as entrepreneurs in a variety of fields. From Estée Lauder, who started her cosmetics firm in the 1940s, to Ruth Fertel, who aspired to open the greatest steakhouse in the world—Chris Ruth’s Steak House—women entrepreneurs have proven that they can overcome economic and business constraints to achieve their goals.
More than ever, female entrepreneurs are making a mark in diverse industries. Five of the most successful female entrepreneurs who have had a big impact in recent decades are listed below. This list isn’t in any particular order and it’s far from comprehensive, but it aims to honor women who have established a global brand through their own hard work and determination.
Oprah Winfrey, the media magnate, continues to expand her business. Winfrey co-founded Oxygen Media, a cable network, as a TV star turned entrepreneur. She continued to host her talk program until 2011, when she founded OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, of which she serves as the CEO. Winfrey became a spokesman for Weight Watchers International after purchasing an equity share in the famous subscription weight reduction program in 2015. According to Forbes, Winfrey has a net worth of $2.6 billion.
Zhang Xin is a co-founder of SOHO China, a Chinese real estate development company that went public in 2007. She was previously a factory worker before earning a master’s degree in economic development from Cambridge University. She is known as “the lady who created Beijing.” Zhang worked at Goldman Sachs before founding her firm and has acquired a fortune of $3.5 billion.
Rihanna, who is just 33 years old, is the youngest lady on the list. The majority of Rihanna’s 1.7 billion fortune comes from Fenty Beauty, a cosmetics business she co-owns with luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. She also has a lingerie brand, Savage X Fenty, which she co-owns with investors. In 2020, her charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, raised $22.5 million for disaster assistance. Forbes’ 2020 America’s Richest Self-Made Women list includes Rihanna.
Yes, she rubs elbows with Oprah Winfrey — as well as Richard Branson. Marie Forleo, on the other hand, is much more than a household name. Her Marie TV films span a wide range of topics, from how to be more creative in business to how to write better copy. Marie Forleo is dedicated to helping women thrive in business, as seen by her conversations with Elizabeth Gilbert and Anthony Robbins, which you’ll want to watch again and again. Her motto, “The world needs that particular talent that only you have,” captures her commitment to ensuring that the women she mentors are not just successful, but also happy and content. Her current net worth is approximately $14 million.
Biocon, an Indian biopharmaceutical business, was founded by Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. She started Biocon in a rented barn and built it into India’s largest publicly traded biopharmaceutical company by revenue. Biocon, a multinational corporation, went public in 2004 and became just the second Indian firm to attain a market capitalization of $1 billion on its first day of trading. According to Forbes, Mazumdar-Shaw is India’s wealthiest self-made woman, with a net worth of $4.1 billion.
Women have long been associated with fashion houses (Diane von Furstenberg) and cosmetics firms (Mary Kay Ash). But in recent decades, a remarkable number of women entrepreneurs have made their mark in other industries, from real estate to biopharma. This list, which just scratches the surface of prominent women who are leading the way in business, is thrilling. It’s a strong reminder that the world of business is shifting – and that women are leading the way – as fresh voices join the #girlboss movement throughout the world.
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