Five #GirlBosses Who Have Made A Fortune In Male-Dominated Industries


James Brown once sang that “this is a man’s world” and, unfortunately, in many ways he was right. However, he also proclaimed that it would be nothing without a woman, and of that we’re certain. The divide between men and women in the workplace is one that’s gradually been eroded over the last few decades and while there is still much work to do, a string of pioneering females have shown that gender isn’t a barrier to success. According to data compiled by Eurostat, women’s gross hourly earnings were on average 16.4% below those of men in 2013, with the most unequal wages paid in Estonia and Austria, while the smallest in Slovenia and Malta.

Reaching the top of any profession, regardless of gender, is tough, but when a woman manages to outshine her contemporaries in a traditionally male dominated field, the world naturally takes notice. In this article we’ve decided to pay tribute to the women who’ve found success in unusual places. You can feel free to call them Girlbosses, because let’s face it that’s what they are (to use a term coined by Nasty Gal founder and ‘#Girlboss’ author Sophia Amoruso). From boxes and poker to desolate terrains of Australia, our featured females have found their fortune in places you’d never normally look.


Zhang Yin: The Bo Lady with a Billion Dollar Empire

Unlike many of the world’s female billionaires, Zhang Yin didn’t inherit a fortune or make her way in the business world thanks to her family connections. Instead, Yin managed to become one of the richest people in the world by purchasing scrap paper from the US and turning it into cardboard boxes. According to Money Week, she is the world’s richest self-made woman entrepreneur.

Spotting a gap in the market where others didn’t, Yin was able to turn a simple idea into a billion dollar empire. So how did she do it? Realizing that China’s mammoth export industry couldn’t thrive without cheap packaging, Yin decided to invest her $3,800 savings in a shipment of scrap paper.

Using local help, she then turned this material into cardboard boxes which she then sold to various manufacturing companies, who then used the boxes to package up their products and send out for shipping. Given China’s need for millions of boxes every month, Yin’s business quickly took off and, to date, Nine Dragons Paper Holdings has earned Yin a staggering $4.6 billion. As well as building her own personal fortune, Yin’s company has helped contribute to China’s recent trade boom that’s seen it become the biggest exporter of goods in the world.


Vanessa Selbst: The Poker Queen with a Legal Eye

While Yin was able to make her way in the world by exploiting a gap in China’s export market, Vanessa Selbst was able to build her fortune by exploiting those with logical deficiencies. Despite originally intending to become a lawyer after studying for her law degree at Yale, 1984-born Selbst inadvertently got caught up in the poker boom of 2003. Just a few years after taking up the game she’d managed to establish herself as one of the top players in the world with more than $10 million in career earnings.

One of Selbst’s major skills is her ability to read people and prey on the inefficiencies in their strategy. This ability to analyse a situation, run through its various permutations and then make the most powerful move are all things Selbst does to deadly effect. Such is Selbst’s standing in the male dominated poker world that she’s now a representative of the world’s largest online operator, PokerStars. Flying the flag for the company at various events across the world, Selbst is now as feared as any man at the felt. Perhaps even more.


Gina Rinehart: The Iron Lady with a Fortune to Match

The saying “there’s gold in them there hills” was famously used during the great US gold rush, but for Gina Rinehart, it was iron that piqued her interest. Living out in Australia and born to rather humble roots, Rinehart decided to step out of her comfort zone (in fact, most people’s comfort zone) and become an iron miner in Pilbara.

Following the footsteps her father, Lang Hancock, had made many years earlier, Rinehart was able to successfully mine Australia’s largest iron source and ship the non-precious metal across the world. So how did she make billions of dollars? Back when her father discovered the source, iron was deemed a scarce commodity in Australia and all international shipments were banned.

Fast-forward a few years and Rinehart was able to export the product and collect some hefty royalty payments. That initial income allowed Rinehart to branch out across Australia and she now has interests in mines across the country – interests which have earned her the reluctant nickname of a “mining magnate”. Current estimates suggest she is worth almost $30 billion and makes a staggering $600 every second. Beyond her own achievements, Rinehart believes her company has helped boost Australia’s economy over the last few years thanks to the billions of dollars in export and manufacturing profits her iron has provided.


Elizabeth Holmes: The Medical Marvel

Making billions of dollars from science isn’t easy, but Elizabeth Holmes has managed it better than any other woman on the planet. Although women haven’t struggled to penetrate the worlds of science and medicine as much as other professions, stories of them making $4 billion are rare.

Holmes is a rarity though and at the age of just 31 she’s now the majority shareholder of Theranos, a Silicon Valley company valued at $9 billion. So what does Theranos do? In short, Holmes’ company provides blood testing facilities using unique technology. Needing only a pinprick of blood to conduct a comprehensive analysis, Theranos’s technology could help reduce the cost of keeping American’s health by a factor of 10.

Not only that, but Holmes and Theranos recently applied for FDA approval to create early-detection Ebola test kits. With the help of her influential board members, which include the likes of Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, Holmes could quickly become one of the most important figures in world health. Indeed, if accepted, the technology could revolutionize the detection of the disease and make Theranos one of the most valuable medical companies in the world.


Savitri Jindal: The Steely-faced Success Story

When her husband died in helicopter crash back in 2005, Savitri Jindal could have sold her share of assets in his steel company and grieved in private. However, despite not fitting naturally into the steel world, she decided to keep the family business alive and now she’s in control of a business worth $5.3 billion. Helped along by her four sons, Jindal has managed to turn around the company after a three-year slump and its now trading at one of its highest rates since it was founded by Om Prakash Jindal.

Like Rinehart, Jindal has managed to turn a family asset traditionally reserved for males into a thriving empire where women can now tread. Although her place as one of the richest steel magnates might not inspire women across the world to enter the industry, it’s yet another example of how boundaries can be broken. Moreover, her story is one of triumph in the face of adversity.

Although the world’s rich list may still be dominated by men, the five women in this list have shown that it doesn’t matter what sex you are; success is attainable whoever you are. Making millions or even billions of dollars is great, but the ability to triumph in an arena where no one else has before is an accomplishment that sets these women apart from the crowd and makes them worth of a place in our list of leading lights in the world of female empowerment. Of course, class is not defined by money. The money these five wonderful women make may help, but it’s their determination, inventiveness and drive that we admire most of all.



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  1. Pingback: Hollywood Producer & #TimesUp Leader Helping Women Step Into Their Power And Tell Their Stories - GirlTalkHQ

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