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Odd Jobs: Before They Were America’s Richest Self-Made Women

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There’s more than one path to success, and Forbes‘ list of America’s richest self-made women proves the point with its interesting “did you know” factoids for each.

Vera Wang

Before Vera Wang was cutting patterns for celebrities like Beyoncé, she was cutting figure-eights on the ice. The now-famous fashion designer, who sits at No. 29 on the Forbes list, was a competitive figure skater as a teen. She also was the youngest editor at Vogue. She’s now worth $630 million.

beyonce
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Beyoncé

Speaking of Beyoncé, she lands at No. 46 with a net worth of $350 million. Though her latest studio album was titled “Lemonade,” her path to becoming a pop music icon and actress didn’t start with entrepreneurial lemonade stands but with talent shows. Beyoncé knew early on that she loved performing, and practice paid off. (No odd jobs, except for maybe sweeping up hair at her mom’s salon.)

Susan Wojcicki

Also starting young was Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO and No. 41 on the list. But she started in a different field than where she landed. At the mere age of 11, she sold homemade “spice ropes” door-to-door. She was actually earning her humanities degree when as a college senior she took her first computer science class, which changed her course to technology. She was Google’s 16th employee and today is one of the most powerful women in technology, with a worth estimated at $410 million.

Lynda Weinman

Like Wojcicki and other women on the list, Lynda Weinman, changed paths. Weinman, worth $280 million and landing at No. 55 on the list, was only 23 she borrowed $20,000 from her grandfather to open a punk and new wave store on L.A.’s Sunset Strip. She later became a web design teacher and needed a way to communicate with her students — so she and her husband founded online learning platform lynda.com, which she later sold to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion in cash and stock.

Despite the successes highlighted on the Forbes list, men are 85 percent more likely than women to be VPs or C-Suite Execs by mid-career, and 171 percent more likely to hold those positions late in their career. And, women overall continue to make less than men — women now make 76 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap.

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Sheryl Sandberg

That’s “just plain wrong” that so many women work hard every day for less money, says No. 12 on Forbes‘ list, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote a USA Today guest column on Equal Pay Day.

“The gender pay gap exists not because women aren’t educated enough or ambitious enough or hardworking enough,” wrote Sandberg, whose estimated worth is an impressive $1.6 billion. “It’s about structural barriers we need to dismantle.”

Marian Ilitch

On Mother’s Day, Detroit Free Press business columnist Carol Cain wrote about her mother returning to the workforce — and recalled another trailblazer who influenced her life, No. 1 on the Forbes list, Marian Ilitch. Ilitch confounded Little Caesars Pizza in 1959 with her husband, Mike, who died in February. Like Cain’s mother, Ilitch returned to the workforce after having children.

“Ilitch told me a few years ago she grew tired of PTA meetings and wanted to work outside the home,” Cain wrote.

In addition to being a mother, Ilitch was once a former Delta Airlines ticket agent, Forbes reported. Today, her net worth is a whopping $5.1 billion.

So your net worth may not be a billion dollars or even close to that, but do you know what you’re worth in the job market? Get a free salary report from PayScale.

Tell Us What You Think

Has your career path included odd jobs or work in different fields than where you are today? We want to hear from you. Tell us your experience in the comments or on Twitter.


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