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Women on Forbes list disproportionately come from inherited wealth

Just one sixth of women on Forbes’ annual billionaires list are self made compared to the two thirds of individuals who are self made across the entire list – which this year totals 1,810 individuals with a combined net worth of $6.48 trillion.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Inditex co-founder Amancio Ortega, and investor Warren Buffett make up the top three with net worths of $75 billion, $67 billion, and $60.8 billion respectively.

Walmart heiress Christy Walton, who has been the wealthiest women for eight years running was downgraded to 258th on the annual ranking after information detailed how her fortune was split with her son Lukas.

L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt is now believed to be the world’s wealthiest woman, coming in at number 11 with a net worth of $36.1 billion.

Thirty-three of the 190 women on the list are self-made, with Zhou Qunfei being the richest, following the IPO of her company Lens Technology in 2015.

In the overall list 1,186 individuals were self made, with another 396 substantially growing wealth they had inherited.

Luisa Kroll, assistant managing director at Forbes says: “I think in general women are not as motivated by ownership, by money and so they tend to have different goals and do not put that as high as a priority. That said I think we are starting to see more creation of female-owned businesses.”

Kroll said when Forbes last year created its inaugural list of self-made women in the US, an issue which featured actress-turned-businesswoman Jessica Alba as its cover star, she was taken aback by how few wanted to be interviewed about their success.

“There are always a number of people on our list that don’t want to talk about it, but generally when it’s a self-made entrepreneur and they’ve done really great things you can get them to talk about their lessons and their experiences,” Kroll said.

Kroll suggested that many women are groomed to share credit with others, which may be why they are reluctant to tout their own successes.

The youngest billionaires in the ranking, Alexandra Andresen, 19, and Katharina Andresen, 20, from Norway, are fifth gens to a holding company started from the sale of the family’s former tobacco business, which was sold in the fourth generation.

Pointing out that the youngest male billionaire on the list, Gustav Magnar Witzoe, was also a Norwegian who had also inherited a stake in the family business, Kroll stated: “I think that speaks to Norwegian tax laws and that country’s embrace of family and wanting to treat their children like equals.”

Besides Walmart and L’Oreal, other notable family businesses that have produced multibillionaires include LVMH, whose founder Bernard Arnault ranks 14th on the list with a fortune of $34 billion, and the heirs of German supermarket chain Aldi, Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr, at number 21.

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, who once ranked fourth on the list, has now dropped out of the rankings, having transferred his fortune to his three sons. 

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