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America’s Self-Made Women List 2023 Self-Made Scores: From Hired Hands To Bootstrappers

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A look at where the women entrepreneurs, executives and entertainers on Forbes’ new list started out.


Among the 100 members of Forbes’ new list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, some were born into wealth and others into poverty. Most, it turns out, grew up middle-class or upper middle-class.

As part of our analysis of how these inspiring entrepreneurs, executives and entertainers built companies or careers, Forbes did some digging and gave each of the list members a self-made score. The goal is to provide some context about where these women started out and how many hurdles they had to overcome to get where they are.

We initially created this scoring system in 2014 for the annual Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, with scores from 1 to 5 indicating that an individual has inherited their wealth and 6 to 10 being gradations of self-made. For our list of self-made women, by definition none have inherited their fortunes, so we use the scores from 6 to 10 to reflect that they’ve built their own fortunes.

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SELF-MADE SCORES

A breakdown of the scores for the 2023 list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women


Here’s what the scores mean and some examples of each:

A score of 6:

Hired hand who didn’t create the business. Think former eBay and HP CEO Meg Whitman or former Facebook (now Meta Platforms) Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Thirteen members of this year’s list– including Alphabet Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell and Oracle CEO Safra Catz–received a score of 6. They’ve achieved outsized success and built significant fortunes through executives roles rather than as founders.


A score of 7:

Self-made who got a head start from wealthy parents and/or moneyed background. Nine of this year’s list members got this score, including Kim Kardashian and her half-sister Kylie Jenner; Kim’s father Robert was a successful lawyer who is best known for defending O.J. Simpson, while Kylie’s father is Olympic medal winner Bruce Jenner, who transitioned from male to female in 2015 and is now known as Caitlyn Jenner.


A score of 8:

Self-made who got a head start from wealthy parents and/or moneyed background. Nine of this year’s list members got this score, including Kim Kardashian and her half-sister Kylie Jenner; Kim’s father Robert was a successful lawyer who is best known for defending O.J. Simpson, while Kylie’s father is Olympic medal winner Bruce Jenner, who transitioned from male to female in 2015 and is now known as Caitlyn Jenner.


A score of 8:

Self-made who came from middle class or upper middle-class background. More than half of the list –a total of 56 – received this score, including dating app Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd, former talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and hit TV show creator Shonda Rhimes.


A score of 9:

Self-made who came from a largely working-class background. Eighteen on the list received this score, including Marian Ilitch, cofounder with her husband of Little Caesars pizza; the daughter of Macedonian immigrants, she worked in her father’s restaurant and attended community college in Dearborn, Michigan. Fashion company CEO and cofounder Emma Grede spent her childhood saving spare change to buy fashion magazines.


A score of 10:

Self-made who grew up poor and overcame significant obstacles. Just four of the 100 received this score. TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who was born to a teen mother in rural Mississippi, was raised without indoor plumbing. Also from poor backgrounds: singer and cosmetics entrepreneur Rihanna; singer Barbra Streisand and singer Dolly Parton.

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Source: Forbes

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