The United States’ wealthiest women have been getting richer and richer. Every year, the Forbes 400 list marks the 400 richest people in America. In 2012, the combined net worth of the ten richest women on the list was $124.2 billion; in 2013, this number jumped to an impressive $156.6 billion!
The following five women are currently at the top of the totem poll, holding billions of dollars. Many of these women are a part of very successful families with whom they share the responsibility of their fortunes. Though these women are not necessarily self-made billionaires, they have been entrusted with a huge amount of responsibility – not only in terms of financial management, but also in terms of philanthropy.
Many of these women are committed to using their wealth for good. Number 5 on our list, Laurene Jobs, has used the majority of her wealth for benevolent, rather than extravagant, ends. Passionate about issues of education in the United States, Jobs founded the college prep organization College Track. Recently she gave an interview in Washington regarding her agenda for better education, global conservation, nutrition and immigration policy. She has also recently taken on the important issue of gun control. Friends close to Jobs have also acknowledged that she is a very private person, and so the deeds that are made readily available to the public probably only represent “a fraction of 1 percent of what she actually does.”
As women in the working world continue to gain more wealth, success, and recognition, one can hope to see more of these women pursue new and strong foundations for future generations of men and women alike.
5. Laurene Powell Jobs and family ($11.7 billion) – Apple, Disney
Laurene Powell Jobs is the largest individual shareholder in Disney. She is the head of the Laurene Powell Jobs Trust and oversees more than 130 million shares in the entertainment company, a job left to her by her late husband Steve Jobs. In 2013, Powell Jobs made a televised appearance pushing for immigration reform, calling the inability to employ college-educated children of undocumented immigrants a “waste of lives.” She has since made regular visits to Washington and has met with a number of politicians to help address this issue. Powerhouse Laurene Powell Jobs is also the founder and chair of the Emerson Collective, co-founder and chair of the nonprofit organization College Track, and a member of Stanford University’s Board of Trustees.
4. Anne Cox Chambers ($13.5 billion) – Media
Anne Cox Chambers is the majority owner of the privately-held media consortium Cox Enterprises. At age 94, she continues to sit on the Board of Directors. Cox Enterprises was founded by her father James M. Cox in 1989 when he purchased the Dayton Evening News. The company now includes Cox Communications (cable, broadband), Cox Media Group (newspapers, TV, radio stations), Manheim (car auctions) and AutoTrader Group (online car sales). Anne Cox Chambers’ net worth has increased a whopping $3.5 billion in the past year because the site AutoTrader.com has increased in value. Chambers was also the ambassador to Belgium under President Jimmy Carter and holds the French Legion of Honor title. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
3. Abigail Johnson ($17.2 billion) – Money management
Abigail Johnson is the president of Fidelity Financial Services. She will also be the CEO of Fidelity Investments when her father Ned Johnson steps down. Abigail earned an M.B.A from Harvard University and shortly thereafter joined Fidelity in 1988 as an analyst. Fidelity is the second-largest mutual fund company in the US (behind Vanguard), totaling $1.67 trillion in assets under management. Currently Johnson owns an approximate 24% stake in the company, and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA). She is also known as one of the most elusive executives in finance, as she is very private. Some have criticized her for this tendency, since she declined a number of interviews and public appearances to discus what her goals were for the company. However, the firm’s obvious success certainly gives Johnson the benefit of the doubt. She lives in Milton, Massachusetts with her husband and two children.
2. Jacqueline Mars ($20.5 billion) – Candy
Jacqueline Mars is the third generation heir to Mars, the largest candy company in the world, with $33 billion dollars in sales. Jacqueline Mars and her two brothers inherited the company in 1999 when their father Forrest Sr. died; all three are currently on the company’s Board of Directors but do not control day-to-day operations. The Mars company was founded in 1911 by their grandfather Frank Mars, who first made chocolates in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen. Forrest Sr joined the company in 1929. Around this same time the firm invented the flavored nougat that became the well-known basis of Milky Way and Snickers. Aside from producing some of the best-loved and most lucrative candy in the world, the company also owns Uncle Ben’s rice and pet food brands Pedigree and Whiskas.
1. Christy Walton and family ($35.4 billion) – Walmart
Christy Walton, a Jackson, Wyoming resident, is the richest woman in the world, a title she has held for four out of the past five years. She inherited her wealth when her husband John Walton, a former Vietnam war medic, was killed in a plane crash in 2005. Much of her wealth stems from Walmart, the retailer founded by her father-in-law Sam Walton and his brother in 1962. She currently owns a 9.8% stake in Walmart. Her late husband’s side investment in First Solar recently boosted Christy’s net worth above the rest of her family when its stock went up 47% in the past year. She also supports her family’s foundation, the Walton family Charitable Support Foundation, which focuses its efforts on education and works with colleges and universities throughout the United States. In 2007, her family’s foundation donated an approximate $1.6 billion.
The Walton family, however, have been criticized for their lack of philanthropic activity relative to their fortune. When some of America’s wealthiest families made public commitments to The Giving Pledge – giving more than half of their wealth to charity – the Waltons were not among the people who chose to join the list of 70 pledgers which includes those with much smaller fortunes.