Don’t put your pink beanies away just yet: this list is worth a celebratory show of solidarity. The 2017 edition of the Forbes rich list, released this week, includes more self-made women billionaires than any year before in the list’s 30-year history. But who are these high-flying females? How did they make it on the list?
One never finished high school, another turned their back on the family business to make their own way, and yet all of them are very, very wealthy.
Here are the top five women to secure a place on the list:
Zhou Qunfei, Hong Kong
Net worth: US$7.4 billion
From an impoverished village in central China to the world’s richest self-made millionaire, this high-school dropout began her own glass screen production company in 1993 with US$3000 in savings. Lens Technology, which now produces screens for Apple and Samsung smartphones, sees US$2.2 billion in sales.
Marian Ilitch and family, US
Net worth: US$6 billion
Marian founded a single Little Caesars pizza restaurant in Detroit with her late husband, Mike, in 1959. It has since grown into one of the biggest pizza chains in the US, with estimated revenues in excess of US$4.2 billion per year. The couple’s conglomerate Ilitch Holdings (which Forbes estimates is now completely owned by Marian after Mike’s death in February) owns the NHL Detroit Red Wings and Detroit’s MotorCity Casino.
Chan Laiwa and family, China
Net worth: US$5.6 billion
While a descendent of an imperial family, Chan was born into a poor family and forced out of school early to join the family’s furniture business. Later buying and reselling furniture in Hong Kong (and making enough to purchase 12 properties), the mother of two is now the owner and founder of Fu Wah International Group, a real-estate company that’s now one of the biggest developers in Beijing.
Pollyanna Chu, Hong Kong
Net worth: US$4.9 billion
This self-made billionaire chose to swerve away from her family footsteps in the casino and hotel business, instead making her money in financial services with the Kingston Financial Group (named for her son) that is now the main rival for giants Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs for local clients. The proof is in the pudding, considering her wealth has tripled in the last two years.
Who: Wu Yajun and family, China
Net worth: US$4.5 billion
This former journalist founded Longfor Properties, a real-estate development company with her (now ex) husband in 1993 and has since developed a presence in 27 cities across mainland China, delivering over 160 projects. The company also holds an impressive market value of HKD58 million.