Can you name the wealthiest people on Earth? Or how about of all time? Names including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet come to mind, but how many women could you name? If the answer is not many, you’re not alone. The fact is, there are numerous immensely powerful and wealthy women in the world, many of them living under the radar and out of the public’s eye. As such, most of the names populating the list of the richest women in the world wouldn’t be instantly recognizable.
Just like the world’s wealthiest men, the world’s richest women have acquired their fortunes through a variety of means. Many came into their wealth through inheritance, either marrying into it or receiving it from a dying parent or grandparent. Others have built successful businesses, or even used incredibly wise investing strategies. Still others simply took some powerful initiative and climbed the corporate ladder, starting from relatively simple means and vaulting to the top of the food chain.
The richest women in the world
To figure out who the richest women in the world actually are, we’re going to rely on the The World’s Billionaires list, researched and compiled by Forbes. Naturally, the names on the list will ebb and flow along with the size of their fortunes and holdings, and some of these women may find themselves completely off the list a year from now. Wealth is tricky to calculate, and a big change in world politics or economic conditions — like Brexit, or revelations about a company’s shortcomings — can see a fortune evaporate overnight.
According to Forbes’s list, here are the world’s 20 richest women.
20. Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala
Slotted at No. 20 on Forbes’s list is 53-year-old Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala with a purse worth roughly $5.5 billion. She is the chair of Tresalia Capital, and her wealth’s origins come from her family’s holdings in beverage and beer companies in Mexico.
19. Pauline MacMillan Keinath
Agribusiness giant Cargill produces a lot of wealth, and one of the beneficiaries of that wealth is Pauline MacMillan Keinath — to the tune of $5.7 billion. The heiress is the great-granddaughter of the company’s founder and owns a 9% stake in the business.
18. Antonia Johnson
Antonia Johnson comes from a long line of wealth, with the lion’s share of her $5.7 billion in assets coming from her stake in Axel Johnson AB — the company her great-grandfather founded nearly 150 years ago. She is the third-richest Swede on Forbes’s list.
17. Zhou Qunfei
Zhou Qunfei founded Lens Technology, a company that builds touchscreen technologies for use with smartphones and computers. The 46-year-old lives in a $28 million house and estate, which is only a part of her $5.9 billion portfolio.
16. Eva Gonda de Rivera
With $6.1 billion in the bank, Mexican businesswoman Eva Gonda de Rivera ranks among the world’s richest women. Her money is made from her stake in the FEMSA beverage company, which bottles and sells soft drinks throughout Mexico and Central America.
15. Katharine Rayner
Another billionaire media heiress, Katharine Rayner’s fortune is worth $6.4 billion. She is also one of the beneficiaries of the Cox Enterprises fortune.
14. Sandra Ortega Mera
Photos of Sandra Ortega Mera are hard to come by, but know this: She’s worth $6.4 billion. The Spanish heiress is the daughter of Amancio Ortega Gaona, founder of Inditex. When he died, she inherited a portion of the company which brought with it huge amounts of money.
13. Margarita Louis-Dreyfus
Her name is reminiscent of a famous actress, but there is a difference: Margarita Louis-Dreyfus commands a fortune of $6.8 billion. The Russian-born Louis-Dreyfus is a businesswoman, serving as chairman of Louis Dreyfus and the owner of Olympique de Marseille football team.
12. Gina Rinehart
With a fortune topping $8.8 billion, Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart is the richest native-born individual on her continent. Her father discovered rich iron and coal deposits in parts of Australia, building mines to extract them and becoming immensely wealthy. Rinehart has used her inheritance to buy up media companies and has become involved in many areas of Australian politics.
11. Blair Parry-Okeden
Blair Parry-Okedon is a Hawaiian-born American living in Australia — and is actually the richest person on the continent down under. She made her fortune by inheriting 25% of Cox Enterprises, an American media company. Her fortune is pegged at $9.7 billion.
10. Massimiliana Landini Aleotti
Massimiliana Landini Aleotti isn’t a household name, and you can be thankful for that because it’s an incredible tongue twister. But Aleotti is one of the world’s richest women, with a fortune pegged at $10.1 billion. She owns the pharmaceutical company Menarini, along with her children.
9. Iris Fontbona
With $10.1 billion to her name, Iris Fontbona has secured her place among the 10 richest women in the world. She is the widow of Chilean mining magnate Andrónico Luksic, who died in 2005. He left the business to Fontbona, who has continued to generate massive amounts of wealth.
8. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken
The name says it all! Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken has a controlling interest in the beer company Heineken, the world’s third-largest brewing company. Her fortune, as of 2016, is pegged at $12.3 billion.
7. Abigail Johnson
Abigail Johnson wasted no time climbing the corporate ladder at Fidelity Investments, of which she is now the president and CEO. Her estimated net worth is more than $13.1 billion, and her company oversees more than $1.6 trillion in investment funds. Her father served as Fidelity’s CEO before her, but Johnson started rather low on the ladder. She took an analyst position with the company way back in 1988 and kept climbing in rank until she eventually took over the company earlier this year.
6. Laurene Powell Jobs
The widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs sits atop a fortune worth $16.7 billion. Jobs is incredibly well-educated, having received degrees from both the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University and has also put her entrepreneurial skills to work by founding Emerson Collective and College Track, both of which work toward bettering education. Jobs is also the largest single shareholder of Disney stock, which has helped boost her net worth considerably.
5. Susanne Klatten
Susanne Klatten is the daughter of another woman on our list, Johanna Quandt. As a result of her lineage, Klatten is the richest woman in Germany and owns almost half of BMW along with her brother and mother. Her net worth is estimated at $18.5 billion as of this year. Klatten also has an impressive academic and business track record, having earned business degrees and becoming a trained economist. According to German publication DW, she has even worked under an alternate name, so that her family’s wealth — and her association with it — wouldn’t get in the way of her professional endeavors.
4. Maria Franca Fissolo
If you love Nutella, you can thank Maria Franca Fissolo’s family. Fissolo is the widow Michele Ferrero, who ran the world’s second-biggest confectionary company, Ferrero SpA. The Italian Fissolo controls $22.1 billion at 98 years old.
3. Jacqueline Mars
If you’ve ever had a Milky Way, a pack of M&M’s, or a Snicker’s bar, you can thank the Mars family for it. The candy empire has paid immense dividends for the family over the years and has allowed Jacqueline Mars, the daughter and granddaughter of the company’s founders, to enjoy the spoils, of which she controls $23.4 billion. Together with her brothers, Mars oversees their candy company’s continued success into the 21st century, which has brought in more than $33 billion in sales.
2. Alice Walton
If the last name isn’t a dead giveaway, Alice Walton is one of the heirs to the vast Wal-Mart fortune. Her piece of the pie comes in at $32.3 billion, to be exact. Walton is known as the biggest philanthropist in her family, having given billions to charity and using her wealth to support educational reform initiatives. She’s also a well-known art collector, having purchased her first piece of art at the age of 10. Her professional career has included stints as a broker for an investment firm, and as an equity analyst for First Commerce Corporation.
1. Liliane Bettencourt
If you’re not familiar with Liliane Bettencourt, you’re probably familiar with what made her so wealthy. Bettencourt built her $36.1 billion fortune as one of the biggest shareholders in L’Oreal. Her father, who founded the company, put her to work at the age of 15, mixing shampoos and other cosmetic products. She also married Andre Bettencourt in the 1950s, who was a higher-up in the French government. Now 93 years old, Bettencourt has become a philanthropist and lives in Paris.