According to Forbes it was another record year for women on the 2015 FORBES list of the World’s Billionaires. Of a total 1,826 billionaires, 197 are women, up from 172 in 2014. That’s a nice gain, but women still account for just a small percentage of the list — 11% of the total. It’s been a while since we first heard the phrase “We’ve come a long way baby!– an acknowledgement of women’s stride in the world.
With women becoming more and more powerful rooted in wealth one can’t help but wonder what role they will play in the world of politics and queen makers. With Hillary Clinton seeking the Democratic nomination for President it will be interesting to see if any of the wealthiest women many of whom are American will come forth on her behalf, donate money, host fundraisers , use their influence. Now that would be real power. And if you recall it was that familiar face o day time television Oprah Winfrey who introduced Barack Obama to the everyday American who tuned in to her show and it was the beginning of change in America. And proved more than ever that, she got clout.
Most of us of African descent rarely come in contact with billionaires and so when we know of them from afar we think of wealth in a certain limited way. We tend to think of the NBA, NFL, MLB, boxers, rappers, movie stars, and businessmen as wealthy or rich. Yet they don’t even come close to the level of wealth that Forbes assesses. Still, when we read such a list as the top 20 wealthiest women in the world we unconsciously look for Oprah Winfrey’s name on the list. But she was not amongst the top 20 wealthiest women in the world, in fact she came up surprisingly at number 603 ranking on Forbes annual 2015 Billionaire list.
First, it should be noted that there are an eye-popping number of billionaires in the world. But besides that, Forbes has a detailed methodology that they use to compile their list: they value the individuals’ assets, which include stakes in public and private companies, their real estate, yachts, art and cash. They also take into account the billionaires’ estimated amount of debt. Instead of focusing on those who come from multi-generational families of wealth, Forbes ranks billionaires as individuals. Forbes also does not include royal family members or dictators whose fortune comes from their particular position of power.
Christy Walton, who inherited a stake in retailer Wal-Mart, retains the title of world’s richest woman. The widow of John Walton has held that spot for five out of the past six years. FORBES pegs her net worth at $41.7 billion, up from $36.7 billion a year ago.
Liliane Bettencourt, the principal heiress to the L’Oreal cosmetics fortune, is the second richest woman, the same rank she held a year ago. Bettencourt, 92, is worth an estimated $40.1 billion; she’s not involved in running the company her father founded. Her grandson Jean-Victor Meyers replaced her on the board in 2012. A trial of ten people who allegedly stole hundreds of millions of euros from Bettencourt began in January.
The third richest woman is Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton and sister-in-law to Christy Walton. She’s used some of her $39.4 billion fortune to purchase art, and in 2011 opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.
One newcomer to the ranks of the richest women is Maria Franca Fissolo, the widow of Italian candy-and-Nutella tycoon Michele Ferrero, who died in February. Fissolo and her son Giovanni Ferrero, the Chief Executive of Ferrero Group, the sweets company, are inheriting one of the world’s largest candy fortunes, encompassing Kinder chocolates, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Tic Tac mints, among other brands. FORBES estimates that Fissolo and her son are worth $23.4 billion. She is the fifth richest woman on the list.
The sixth richest women is a notable name in Silicon Valley and education circles: Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. Worth an estimated $19.5 billion, she is focused on social reform through a group she started called the Emerson Collective and, through College Track, helping students finish college.
Many of the women among the billionaires ranks inherited their wealth from either their husbands or their fathers. Just 29 of the 197 women are self-made billionaires. One newcomer in that subset is Elizabeth Holmes, who, at 31, is also the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. She dropped out of Stanford with an idea for a better blood testing company that uses just a drop of blood. Theranos was valued by investors in 2014 at $9 billion, and she owns half the company, giving her a $4.5 billion net worth.
Bill Gates continues to be the richest man in the world — a title he has had for 16 of the last 21 years. His assets have increased to $79.2 billion despite giving $1.5 billion to his charity, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mark Zuckerburg is currently a part of the top 20 billionaires on the planet, a first for the millennial billionaire who invented Facebook while he was an undergrad at Harvard University.
Aliko Dangote of Nigeria saw his fortune decrease $14.7 billion from $25 billion. This was caused by a weaker Nigerian currency and lower demand for cement (where he receives his largest revenue from). Despite his assets decreasing, Dangote is still the richest man from Africa.
As for Oprah, she closed out 2014 by promoting the award winning film Selma, which her production company Harpo Films helped produced. Her OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) television company had low ratings when it initially started, however ratings are currently soaring through the roof thanks to actor/director Tyler Perry’s hit dramas and sitcoms.
Besides working on film and television, Oprah had a sold out 2014 ‘The Life You Want’ national tour of self-help teachings. Winfrey also earns funds from spin-off shows that she help create such as Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray and Dr. Oz.
Also worth noting, legendary basketball player Michael Jordan is a newcomer to the list, the 1,741 richest person with a net worth of $1 billion. Jordan makes $100 million from royalties from his Nike Air Jordan line. He also purchased 80 percent of the Charlotte Bobcats, which was valued at $275 million in March 2010. His ownership jumped to 89 percent in 2013, reports ESPN.