Several years ago, Forbes began publishing an annual list of women billionaires. The list, published this year in April, is a fascinating look at women, wealth, and leadership, and is comprised of 234 women. Let’s look at a few of the stories and see what we can learn.
Alice Walton is the only daughter of Sam and Helen Robson Walton with a net worth of about $54 billion. While she has no role at Wal-Mart, she is leading an initiative at the Walton Family Foundation to help charter schools invest in and renovate facilities.
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers is the granddaughter of L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller, with a net worth of about $49 billion. She became reigning heiress of the L’Oreal fortune in 2017 after the death of her mother. In March, the company announced its factories would start making hand sanitizer to support the needs of French and European health authorities.
Mackenzie Scott Tuttle Bezos, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, is worth about $36 billion. In May 2019, she signed the Giving Pledge, committing to giving away at least half her fortune. Within the last year, she has given $1.7 billion to 116 non-profits, with a focus on racial equality, LGBTQ+ equality, democracy, and climate change. She is an author and mother of four, three sons and a daughter.
39-year-old Yang Huiyan owns 57% and sits on the board of real estate developer Country Garden, and has a net worth estimated at $20 billion. The company has set up automated food serving stations in Wuhan to feed Chinese medical workers.
Laurene Powell Jobs is the widow of Steve Jobs, with an estimated net worth of $22 billion. She is mother to a son and three daughters and has been heavily involved in philanthropy. Through the Emerson Collective, she has advocated for education reform, social redistribution, and environmental conservatism. She is also co-founder and board president of College Track, which prepares disadvantaged high school students for college.
Our list wouldn’t be complete without referencing Sara Blakely. Though born in Florida, she has made her home in Atlanta where, in 2000, she launched Spanx. She has an estimated net worth of $1 billion, and she and husband Jesse Itzler have four children. In 2006, she launched the Sara Blakely Foundation with a goal of helping women through education and entrepreneurial training. In 2013, she signed the Giving Pledge, with a commitment to give at least half her wealth to charity.
Wealth can come through ideas, work and diligence, as with the case of Sara Blakely. It can come through partnering with others, as in the case of Huiyan. And it can come through loss, such as loss of parents, spouse, or a marriage, as with some of the others we have highlighted.
As I read the stories of these women though, it brings to mind how much we all have in common. Certainly, these women can buy just about any convenience available. But they, like so many of you, hope that their children do well, and these women aspire to make a difference in the world.
And finally, the giving heart, which is apparent in so many of these stories, flies in the face of one of the current narratives about the evil of capitalism. All those we have talked to and worked with, who have built strong financial statements, have a heart for giving back, for stewarding well, for improving the quality of life for so many.
For their examples of giving, we are grateful.
Until we talk again.