But even the wealthiest women in the world — who have more than $235 billion among them — have inherited their fortunes from their husbands, fathers and grandfathers, according to data from CBS Money Watch. In fact, four of the top 10 women billionaires received their riches from two men: Wal-Mart tycoon Sam Walton and Herbert Quandt, who made BMW synonymous with luxury cars while battling accusations of affiliation with Nazis during World War II.
Here they are, from richest to poorest:
1. Christy Walton: $41.3 billion
Christy Walton married into the Wal-Mart family fortune. Her husband, John Walton, was one of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s four children. John died in a private plane crash in 2005, leaving his stake in the company to his wife, according to CBS Money Watch. She’s not only the wealthiest Walton and the wealthiest woman in the United States, but the wealthiest woman in the world, Forbes reported.
2. Alice Walton: $38.5 billion
Christy Walton’s sister-in-law, Alice Walton, is the second wealthiest woman in the world. However, she seems less interested in the family business and more interested in art. In 2011, she founded the Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, Ark., and recently said she plans to purchase a house in New Jersey designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and move it there.
3. Liliane Bettencourt: $34.9 billion
At one time, Liliane Bettencourt was the world’s richest woman thanks to her father’s cosmetics brand L’Oreal, a Paris-based company that now manages Lancome and Garnier. She started working for her father at age 15 and, when he died, inherited his stake in the company. Although she still owns the fortune, she is suffering from dementia, and it is now managed by her daughter, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, and her two grandsons.
4. Jacqueline Mars: $26.8 billion
Jacqueline Mars’s sweet fortune came from her candy-maker grandfather Frank Mars, who started cooking up the business in 1911 from his home in Tacoma, Wash. Mars Inc. makes M&M’s as well as Milky Way and Snickers bars.
5. Laurene Jobs: $19.3 billion
Laurene Jobs inherited her fortune in 2011 when her husband, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, died from pancreatic cancer. She got his shares in Apple and Walt Disney, making her Disney’s largest stockholder.
6. Elaine Marshall: $17.3 billion
Quilted Northern toilet paper and Brawny paper towels have contributed to Elaine Marshall’s nest egg. Her late husband, E. Pierce Marshall, was the heir to the family fortune Koch Industries, which manufactures asphalt, plastics and paper products, among other things. Pierce Marshall’s father, Howard Marshall, married American model Anna Nicole Smith — resulting in a 16-year inheritance squabble.
7. Susanne Klatten: $16.9 billion
Susanne Klatten holds the keys to her family’s fortune from the German automaker BMW, making her Germany’s richest woman. Her father, Herbert Quandt, revived the company after World War II, after which it was accused of links to the Nazi party and of using forced labor from concentration camps. When he died in 1982, she inherited his shares in BMW as well as the chemical company Altana.
8. Johanna Quandt: $14.1 billion
Johanna Quandt was Herbert Quandt’s secretary at BMW before she became his third wife. When he died, she too inherited a stake in the German auto company.
9. Iris Fontbona: $13.8 billion
Iris Fontbona is a widow of Chilean billionaire Andronico Luksic, who controlled the world’s seventh-largest copper producer, Antofagasta and Quinenco. Luksic died of cancer in 2005 and left the business to his wife and three sons, one of whom died of lung cancer in 2013.
10. Gina Rinehart: $13.4 billion
An Australian mining heiress, Gina Rinehart inherited her fortune from her family firm, Hancock Prospecting, a mineral exploration and extraction company. Two of her children have been fighting her in court over the family trust.