While still a minority among the billionaires of the world, the wealthiest women are sure inching up their way to the top: almost all of the richest women increased their total worth this year. From an average of $11.6 billion last year, this year’s 20 richest women bumped it a bit to $11.84 billion.
Most of the women billionaires of 2012 acquired their fortune through marriage or inheritance, although some, like the Chinese real-estate developer Wu Yajun (net worth of $6 billion) their wealth entirely self-made. Still, in a world of the wealthy where men have been the dominant force for countless decades, it is certainly a refreshing sight to see women in that company. So without further ado, here are the 15 wealthiest women in the world:
15 15th Place: Miuccia Prada—$6.8 billion
The granddaughter of iconic fashion designer Mario Prada is certainly not only stylish, but also incredibly intelligent. Aside from inheriting her grandfather’s love for designing clothes, she was able to grow the company, acquiring other fashion makers such as Chuch & Co., Helmut Lang, and Jil Sander. Miuccia also has a Ph.D. in political science.
14 14th Place: Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken—$7.7 billion
Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken is the daughter of Freddy Heineken, the founder of the third largest brewer in the world, Heineken International. After the death of her father in 2002, Charlene received a controlling interest in the globally-competitive brewery brand.
13 13th Place: Laurene Powell Jobs—$9 billion
As the widow of the technological revolutionary Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs has inherited the Apple founder’s fortune. She also co-founded the Board of College Track, and now serves as its president.
12 12th Place: Johanna Quandt—$10 billion
Johanna Quandt is the widow of Herbert Quandt, the industrialist who brought BMW out of bankruptcy. Johanna sat on BMW’s supervisory board until 1997. Although retired, she still owns 16.7% of the company’s stocks.
11 11th Place: Abigail Johnson—$10.3 billion
The feisty and smart Abigail Johnson is the current head of mutual funds at Fidelity Investments. Her father and founder of the company, Edward Johnson III, passed her the chairmanship of the company’s flagship mutual fund business last year.
10 10th Place: Savitri Jindal—$10.9 billion
The Indian steel baroness Savitri Jindal ranks at 10th place in our countdown of the wealthiest women. While her business suffered during the last year as the Indian Supreme Court banned iron ore mining in some areas, her net worth is still something most men could only dream about.
9 9th Place: Anne Cox Chambers—$12.5 billion
Anne Cox Chambers, the primary owner of Cox Enterprises, a media empire, is still going strong even at age 92. The company started from humble beginnings running a small evening newspaper, and is now one of the largest media companies, owning newspapers, television and programs, and most recently, web properties.
8 8th Place: Susanne Klatten—$13 billion
With a degree in business finance, Susanne Klatten is no ordinary heiress. While she received a significant amount of shares for BMW and pharmaceutical company Altana, her efforts have made both companies grow. Sitting on Altana’s supervisory board, the company became a world-class operation. In fact, she now controls 100% of the stake in Altana.
7 7th Place: Jacqueline Mars—13.8 billion
Jacqueline Mars made her fortune from being born in sweet-toothed-family. Her grandfather, Frank C. Mars, is the founder of the ever beloved Mars, Inc. Yes, the famous candy company that produces those ever delectable Mars bars. In 2008, Mars, Inc. acquired gum maker Wrigley’s, making Jacqueline’s fortune balloon to even greater proportions.
6 6th Place: Birgit Rausing—$14 billion
Birgit Rausing has a genius for a father-in-law: Ruben Rausing, the inventor and founder of the Tetra Pak. When her husband died in 2000, Birgit and her three children inherited the Tetra Pak fortune. She is active in philanthropy, and as the daughter of a well-known Swedish painter, made great contributions in the fields of art and art history.
5 5th Place: Iris Fontbona—$17.8 billion
Another mining lady, Iris Fontbona is the widow of Andronico Luksic, owner of one of the world’s largest copper miners Antofagasta. When Andronico died of cancer in August 2005, Iris acquired his wealth as well as the responsibility of running the mining company.
4 4th Place: Georgina Rinehart—$18 billion
The fourth richest woman in the world is surely a controversial one. Georgina Rinehart is Australia’s biggest mining magnate. And while she surely has been involved in several issues—funding climate change deniers and delaying the release of her children’s trust fund, among others—no one can deny that the mining queen of Australia has worked hard to secure her position in this list.
3 3rd Place: Alice Walton—$23.3 billion
Joining the ranks of the wealthiest femmes around the world is another lady from the Wal-Mart Empire. Alice Walton is the daughter of Wal-Mart founders Sam and Helen Walton. Aside from helping in the warehouse store business, Alice has been busy contributing to the growth of communities, and even helped develop a local airport in Arkansas.
2 2nd Place: Liliane Bettencourt—$24 billion
The French heiress to the L’Oreal legacy is also Europe’s richest woman. But do not think that inheritance is the only thing that made Madame Bettencourt wealthy, as she surely has the business prowess. She was able to grow the company, and even acquired some shares in Nestle in the process. Sadly, Liliane is now suffering from dementia. Her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, is now serving as the warden of her fortune.
1 1st Place: Christy Walton - $25.3 billion
The widow of Wal-Mart heir John Walton did not just sit on her inheritance. When John died in 2005, Christy Walton acquired a fortune worth $15.7 billion. After seven years, that fortune grew by more than half to $25.3 billion. Not only is she busy growing the Wal-Mart empire (stock has gone up by 16% just over the past year), but she is also involved in philanthropic activities, which lead several news outfits to rank her as the leading female philanthropist.