What did some of the world’s richest self-made women study?

SOURCE: Scott Eisen/Getty Images/AFP
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks at the US Conference of Mayors about how communities can use technology to grow and thrive on June 8, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.

By U2B Staff 

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Women have come a long way over the past few decades, breaking away from the shackles where they were expected to accept that their place was at home, or that they were unable to vote or drive. Today, many of the world’s richest self-made women are breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, holding C-suite roles and branching into industries typically dominated by men. 

While some of the world’s wealthiest women have inherited their wealth, a growing number are starting their own businesses and amassing mass wealth by building their companies from the ground up, or successfully transforming struggling companies. 

So, what did some of the world’s richest self-made women study? Here’s a compilation:


Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg may not be the US’ richest self-made woman (she’s ranked 12th in Forbes’ America’s Self-Made Women 2019), but this high-profile leader in the Silicon Valley is a strong advocate for more women in leadership positions. 

Sandberg has an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Harvard, which has clearly served her well across the span of her diverse career, which include working at the world’s most renowned companies including McKinsey & Company, Google and Facebook, in addition to the White House. 

At Google, she helped to create the search advertising business that helped raked in the dough for Google. As Facebook’s COO, she led the social media company from a U$56 million loss to US$22.1 billion in profits in 2018.

Neerja Sethi

The tech world is dominated by men, but Neerja Sethi co-founded IT consulting and outsourcing firm Syntel with her husband Bharat Desai. Today, she has a net worth of US$1 billion.

According to Forbes, the couple started the business with an initial investment of just US$2,000.

She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and an MBA from Delhi University. She also graduated with a MS in computer science from Oakland University. 


Thai Lee

Thai Lee may not be a household name, but she is the CEO of IT solution provider SHI International, which generated US$5.2 billion in revenue in the first half of 2020.

Lee has an interesting background — she was born in Bangkok, grew up in South Korea and moved to the US as a teenager for high school. Today, she has an estimated net worth of US$3 billion.

At Amherst College, she earned a double major BA in biology and economics, subjects she chose, partly because of her accent and less-than-perfect fluency in English, reported Forbes

Lee had always been eager to start her own business.

After college, she flew to Korea and worked at auto parts maker Daesung Industrial Co. in Seoul to raise enough money to get an MBA, which she graduated with in 1985 from Harvard Business School.

Following this, in 1989, Lee and her then husband purchased Software House, a small, unsuccessful software sales company. 

She had changed the name to SHI International to reflect her global ambition, and under Lee’s leadership, SHI grew into a top provider of IT products and services with an industry-high of 99% in customer retention, said Harvard.

Doris Fisher

Doris Fisher is the co-founder of one of America’s most iconic clothing retail companies — Gap — in 1969 with her husband after they struggled to find jeans that fit him.

According to Forbes, they raised US$63,000 to open their first store, which sold jeans and music, in San Francisco. The brand soared in popularity, and by 1973, had 25 stores across the US and in the 80s, opened their first overseas store in London.

Fisher served as the company’s merchandiser from the day its inception until 2003 and sat on Gap’s board until 2009. Today, she has an estimated net worth of US$2.4 billion. According to reports, she graduated from Stanford as one of the first women to earn an economics degree.

Many women in business haven’t had it easy when climbing up the corporate ladder or when starting their own business, but with the right education, a lot of hardwork and a sprinkling of luck, they’ve become some of the world’s richest self-made women who are laughing all the way to the bank.