8 Inspiring Women Who Are Self-Made Millionaires

A woman surrounded by falling money

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Women have made great strides in the workplace, but they still face economic inequalities. For instance, a glass ceiling still prevents the average woman from earning a salary equal to the average man. Even so, there are a number of incredible women who have bucked the trend. Here are eight inspiring examples.

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Madam C.J. Walker

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Madam C.J. Walker is widely regarded as the first female self-made millionaire in America. After suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss, she founded a company, Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, and developed a successful line of beauty and hair products for Black women.

Her achievements are particularly noteworthy given that she the first free-born child in her family. At the time of her birth in 1867, her parents had only recently become freed slaves.

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J.K. Rowling

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Before authoring the "Harry Potter" series, J.K. Rowling was a divorced mother struggling to scratch out a living on government assistance. Today she has been called one of the most powerful women in the United Kingdom. She has used her fortune and influence to become a notable philanthropist, supporting charities like Comic Relief, One Parent Families, and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain.

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Oprah Winfrey

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Few names are as iconic as Oprah's, and her rags-to-riches story is one of the most profound in American history. Born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother, she experienced considerable hardship during her childhood. She was raped at age 9 and became pregnant at 14, but her son died in infancy.

Somehow, though, she carried on. At age 19 she landed a job at a radio station, and never looked back. Today she is North America's only Black female billionaire, and certainly one of the most influential women in the world.

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Coco Chanel

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Coco Chanel became one of the biggest names in the history of fashion, credited with liberating women from the constraints of the "corseted silhouette" and popularizing the acceptance of casual chic as the feminine standard.

Her early years, however, were far from glamorous. After her mother, a laundrywoman, died at the age of 12, Coco was placed in an orphanage by her father, who worked as a traveling peddler. She was eventually raised by nuns, who taught her how to sew — the skill that would eventually lead to her life's work.

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Shama Hyder

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Shama Hyder, (formerly Shama Kabani) chief executive officer and founder of the Marketing Zen Group, is an example of a remarkable immigrant success story. Born in in Goa, India in 1985, she did not migrate to the U.S. with her parents until the age of 9. She built a massively successful Web and social media consulting agency from a $1,500 initial investment, and she went on to become a best-selling author, public speaker and prominent Web personality.

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Ursula Burns

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As the CEO of Xerox, Ursula Burns is the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company. Her rise to the top has been truly meteoric. Born of two Panamanian immigrants and raised by a single mother, she began her job at Xerox as a summer intern. Today she is ranked among the most powerful women in the world.

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Arianna Huffington

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As the founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington has become one of the biggest names in online media. Huffington, who was born in Athens, Greece, has played both sides of the political fence, beginning as a conservative commentator but eventually evolving into the iconic liberal she is today.

Although she sold The Huffington Post to AOL in 2011 for a cool $315 million, Arianna has retained her position as president and editor in chief of The Huffington Post Media Group.

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Stephenie Meyer

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Stephenie Meyer had no experience as a writer had never penned so much as a short story before writing her best-selling "Twilight" series. A devout Mormon, Meyer never planned on being more than a stay-at-home mom until she got the idea to write "Twilight" from a dream she had in 2003. Today, she has sold more than 100 million copies and is listed as one of the richest female authors in the world.