Though Western society strives to attain gender equality, of the top 100 richest Americans today, only 12 are women. The wage gap, the glass ceiling, underrepresentation of females… We’ve heard it all, we’ve bemoaned it all, but it’s slow to change. Is it still really is just a rich man’s world? The idea that only 12% of the top 100 richest Americans are female is certainly a disheartening statistic for advocates of gender equality. However, it’s worth noting that this figure, while low, is nonetheless a statistic on the rise.
The following list has been drawn up according to the most recent Forbes list of the richest people in America. The five richest women have been ranked according to their estimated net worth, from lowest to highest.
In what’s perhaps a telling piece of trivia, all five women on our list were lucky heiresses. However, each has been university educated and has had professional training, rising to the occasion of taking over the family business. Each of these women took over direction and management from their fathers, managing to maintain – and even boost – company profits. Highly successful in the professional realms of business, finance and media, most of the women on our list have also shown themselves to be exceptional philanthropists. The contributions of the wealthy women featured here have proven instrumental in the realms of educational development and in the arts, both through donations and active participation in the running of organisations. Their contributions to these organisations have been widely recognised and appreciated.
Yes, the stats are bleak; it seems the self-made female powerhouse is still something of an American dream rather than a common reality. But these women from money are still doing their bit to forge a path for powerful and successful females. With the number of female American billionaires on the rise, in the future this list may well be scatter with entrepreneurial names. For the moment, these heiresses are the 5 wealthiest women in America.
Anne Cox Chambers – $ 15.5 Billion
94 year old Anne Cox Chambers is the fifth wealthiest American woman and, despite her age, still sits on the board of the privately-held media conglomerate Cox Enterprises. Cox Enterprises was founded by Anna’s father, James Cox, in 1898. The enterprise is hugely successful, boasting a revenue of $ 15.300 billion in 2012. Chambers is the majority owner of the company which is also directed by her late sister’s two children. Cox Enterprises owns Cox Communications, television and radio stations, newspapers, the automobile auction company Manheim Auctions, automobile marketplace AutoTrader.com, as well as the direct marketing company Valpak.
From Atlanta, Georgia, Chambers studied arts and sciences at Finch College. She has been married twice and has three children. Chambers is a generous financial supporter of the Democratic Party, and has acted as ambassador to Belgium under President Jimmy Carter. A professed Francophile, in 2009 she was awarded Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French culture minister Frederic Mittérand for her contributions to the advancement of arts and literature.
4. Abigail Johnson – $17, 3 Billion
52 year-old Abigail Johnson is a highly successful business woman from Boston, Massachusetts. After receiving an MBA from Harvard University, Johnson joined the family business Fidelity Investment. Fidelity Investment is a corporation that deals with multinational financial services, and is one of the biggest financial services and mutual fund groups worldwide. Founded by Abigail Johnson’s grandfather Edward C Johnson II in 1988, her father Edward N Johnson is currently the CEO of Fidelity. Since March of 2013, the Johnson family owns a 49% stake in the company.
Abigail is currently President of Financial Services for Fidelity, and is expected to become CEO when her father steps down from the position. As well as her involvement in Fidelity, Johnson is also currently on the board of directors for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), as well as a member of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation. Forbes esteems this billionaire as one of the most powerful women in finance. Johnson has two daughters and tends to keep out of the spotlight, rarely speaking to the press.
3. Jacqueline Mars – $20 Billion
Luckily for Jacqueline Mars, her father and grandfather had a sweet tooth. Her grandfather Frank C Mars founded the American candy company Mars Incorporated in 1911. Jacqueline’s father Forrest E Mars worked with her grandfather to invent the Mars and Snickers bars. Today the company also produces Milky Way, M&Ms and even Uncle Ben’s rice. As well as this, Mars Incorporated now owns the pet food companies Pedigree and Whiskas.
According to Forbes, in 2012 the company ranked as the third largest privatley held company in the US with $30 billion in annual sales. Mars lives in Virginia, has three children, and is twice divorced. In December of last year, she was charged with reckless driving after falling asleep at the wheel and causing a road accident. Currently, Mars is a trustee of the US Equestrian Team and acts on the board of directors for Virginia’s National Sporting Library and Museum.
2. Alice Walton – $34.3 Billion
One of the world’s richest art patrons, 64 year-old Alice Walton is currently America’s second richest woman. Walton is a Wal-Mart heiress living in Texas, who pursued an education and career in finance. Forging a path for herself separate from the family business, Walton founded the investment bank Llama Company in 1988 where she worked as president and CEO. Furthermore, she was chairperson of the Northwest Arkansas Council, a community group that played a major role in developing the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.
She’s also on the board of the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation which provides financial support for education in Arkansas universities and colleges, amongst others. In recent years she has been particularly active with the foundation, leading the family’s participation in the establishment of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas in 2011. Most recently, Walton formed a political action committee with the view of helping raise funds for Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential run in 2016.
1. Christy Walton – $36.7 Billion
Not only is Christy Walton America’s richest woman, she’s also the richest woman in the world. She has held the position for 4 of the past 5 years, rivalled only by Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oréal heiress. Walton inherited her wealth from her husband John Walton whose father was the founder of Wal-Mart. To top it all off, her husband’s investment in First Solar has further boosted her wealth.
Christy lives a relatively private life in Jackson, Wyoming. She endeavours to do good with her fortune, considered the biggest female philanthropist in terms of the amount of money that she gives relative to her wealth. Key non-profit organisations with which she works are The Philanthropy Roundtable, The San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Zoological Society and the Mingei International Museum. She also provides much support for her family’s own foundation, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.