By Oluseye Temitope
Year 2018 has been a very successful year for women around the world as 256 women were part of the elite billionaires club according to the Forbes 2018 world billionaires ranking. This list also includes our own Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, the Oil and Gas magnate who’s valued at $1.6 billion. Although, most of the women at the top of the list inherited their fortunes, not more than a quarter of the female moguls were self-starters who blazed their own trails. The number of self-made women reached 72 for the first time in a very long while.
Alice Walton reclaims the crown as the richest woman in the world, as her fortune leapt from $33.8 billion to $46 billion over the past year. The only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, Alice moves up one spot to number 16, thanks largely to a 43% uptick in the value of Walmart’s shares. The massive retailer has been making an aggressive push into e-commerce in a head-to-head contest against the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.
Walton takes the title of richest woman from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who died in September 2017 at the age of 94. The only child of Bettencourt, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, is the runner up with a net worth of $42.2 billion. That’s higher than what her mother was worth a year ago but shy of Walton’s gain.
For women who aspire to join the billionaires club, the United States and China are the places to be as two-thirds of self-made female billionaires hail from these two countries alone, including Diane Hendricks, who built roofing giant ABC Supply with her late husband, Kenneth. The wealthiest woman entrepreneur in America, Hendricks traces her humble beginnings back to her parents’ dairy farm. She worked a series of odd jobs after high school, and she had her first child as a teenager. She met her roofer husband while selling custom-built houses, and the couple later started the nation’s largest roofing distributor. She has presided over their empire since his death in December 2007; annual sales have more than tripled in the past decade to over $8 billion.
Other rags-to-riches stories include that of the reigning richest self-made woman, Hong Kong’s Zhou Qunfei, who made her $7.8 billion fortune after reportedly losing her mother as a child and quitting school at age 16 to work. She founded her own watch lenses manufacturing business after years of experience in factories, and eventually got into making glass covers for cell phones; her Lens Technology now trades on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and counts Apple and Samsung as customers. Similarly, Chinese newcomer Zhou Xiaoguang reportedly left high school at 16 years old due to lack of funds and sold trinkets across the country, traveling by night trains to hop from city to city. She started Zhejiang-based jewelry maker Neoglory with her husband, Yu Yunxin, in 1995; the couple has since expanded into finance and property, including a publicly traded real estate arm. She debuts on the list at $1.9 billion.
In all, 42 women made the rankings as first timer including two American immigrants, Jayshree Ullal and Eren Ozmen. Ullal, they both landed on the list at $1.3 billion.