When we at Forbes wrapped up our first-ever ranking of America’s 50 richest self-made women, we were surprised to find that a full 40% had built their fortunes in California.
Nine of these 20 women are tech founders or executives in booming Silicon Valley. The rest have built and led businesses in everything from retail to telemarketing to food and beverages. Many migrated from other states or abroad to build careers and companies out West.
California is the nation’s most populous state, and the world’s eighth largest economy, so it makes sense that it would spawn success stories. Nearly a quarter of America’s billionaires (who are still mostly men) live in the Golden State. That’s a hefty chunk, but much lower than the share of the nation’s richest women who made their wealth there.
Leah Edwards, who directs the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford Business School, says California’s fast-growing economy and progressive roots (at least in some regions) have created more opportunities for women. But she says there’s more than economics at play.
“I imagine it has a lot to do with personality and having it reinforced here with a culture that is very supportive,” Edwards says. “The types of people who would found a business are attracted to being here, and we’re really supportive of people who want to take risks.”
California is home to more than 1.1 million woman-owned firms, more than any other state, according to a March 2014 report commissioned by American Express OPEN, which derived estimates from older U.S. Census Bureau data. That figure has grown almost 60% since 1997, more than in most other states.
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