The richest self-made women in America: Diane Hendricks, Meg Whitman, and more

The term “self-made” has caused public outcry before.

When Forbes proclaimed Kylie Jenner the youngest self-made billionaire in March, many took to Twitter to grumble that the term did not properly reflect that her moneyed upbringing provided her with the platform for success.

In response, Forbes rolled out a definition for “self-made”: “Someone who built a company or established a fortune on her own, rather than inheriting some or all of it.” 

Forbes even has a self-made score of 1-10 that showcases someone’s role in their wealth creation. A score of one would belong to someone like Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress worth $51.4 billion, who “inherited her fortune but is not working to increase it.” A score of 10 would belong to Oprah Winfrey, someone “self-made who not only grew up poor but also overcame significant obstacles.”  

Read more: Income inequality in the US has hit a record high. Meet the 15 richest American family ‘dynasties,’ who have a combined net worth of $618 billion.

Even with the sliding scoring system, the broad definition only applied to 11 women on this year’s Forbes 400 list. Jenner, with her estimated net worth of $1 billion, did not qualify for the list’s $2.1 billion minimum. She has a self-made score of 7, meaning she “got a head start from wealthy parents and a moneyed background.”

Most of the women on this list scored at an 8 (“self-made who came from a middle- or upper-middle-class background”) or a 9 (“self-made who came from a largely working-class background; rose from little or nothing”).

The members of the Forbes 400 are worth $2.96 trillion. The self-made women club, one of the smallest subsects of the overall list, is worth a collective $37.2 billion.

Here are the 11 richest self-made women in the US. They are ranked in ascending order of wealth and their net worths are estimates as of October 2, 2019.


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