Explore the remarkable journeys of California’s 5 most influential businesswomen in 2023. Learn about their businesses, early lives, philanthropic efforts, and current net worth. Dive into the compelling stories of these dynamic women shaping the business landscape in California.
According to renowned sources like Forbes, Business Insider, and Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the following business women in California have secured the top spot in terms of wealth.
1. Dagmar Dolby
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Net worth: 5.3 billion USD (2023)
Business: Dolby Laboratories
Dagmar Dolby, the owner of around 36% of Dolby Laboratories, a company her late husband Ray Dolby founded in 1965, focuses on audio technology. The company led the way in creating surround sound technologies for thousands of films and products, and more recently, for video games and mobile devices.
Early life: Dolby, originally named Dagmar Bäumert, was born in Germany in 1941 and was raised in Frankfurt. In 1962, while living in Cambridge, England, she met her future husband, Ray Dolby. At that time, he was a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University, studying physics.
Ray and Dolby, after spending two years in India, where Ray advised the United Nations, drove back to Great Britain. In 1965, in London, Ray established Dolby Laboratories, a company that later became a pioneer in noise reduction and surround sound technology, ultimately contributing to the Dolby family’s prosperity.
Charities: In 2011, the Dolby family business gave $21 million to the California Pacific Medical Center, but the announcement of the donation didn’t happen until 2014. In 2006, they donated $16 million, and in 2011, they contributed $20 million to construct the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building for stem cell research at the University of California-San Francisco. In September 2018, Dolby gave $20 million to UC San Francisco to create the Dolby Family Center for Mood Disorders.
2. Lynda Resnick
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Net worth: 5.6 billion USD (2023)
Business: The Wonderful Company
The Wonderful Company business, valued at $5 billion, is dedicated to providing top-notch, healthy brands and guiding consumers toward better choices every day. They handle everything from growing and harvesting to bottling, packaging, and promoting a variety of products, such as fruits, nuts, flowers, water, wines, and juices.
Early life: Lynda Rae Harris, born to a Jewish family in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had a father, Jack H. Harris, who worked as a film distributor in the 1950s, producing the cult favorite film The Blob. Her mother, Muriel (née Goodman), was an interior designer.
Thanks to her father’s job, Lynda had a recurring role on the Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour broadcast when she was just four years old. After graduating from Harriton High School, the family moved to southern California. Following a short time at a local college, Lynda worked at the in-house ad agency for the Sunset House catalog. At the age of 19, she founded an advertising agency called Lynda Limited.
Charities: The Resnicks have promised over $2 billion to charitable causes, and this includes supporting research on climate change. Also, the company’s health and wellness programs offer free primary health care and medicine to 2,500 students at Wonderful College Prep Academy and to 4,000 employees and their families in the Central Valley. This effort has led to significant improvements in health outcomes, with a remarkable 51% decrease in prediabetes over the last five years.
3. Edythe Broad
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Net worth: 7 billion USD (2023)
Business: Kaufman & Broad, Sun Life Insurance
Edythe Broad became the owner of all the businesses previously run by her husband, Eli Broad, after his death in 2021. Kaufman & Broad, co-founded in 1957, became one of the nation’s largest home builders, specializing in providing affordable tract homes. Later on, her husband purchased Sun Life Insurance and turned it into the annuity giant SunAmerica. He then sold it to AIG for $18 billion in stock in 1998.
Early life: Edythe Lawson, growing up in Detroit with a homemaker mom and a chemist dad, enjoyed school trips to the Detroit Institute of Arts. She liked artworks like John Singleton Copley’s “Watson and the Shark” and Picasso’s “Three Musicians.”
When Edythe was a teenager, she met Eli Broad, and they got married in 1954 after a few dates. Edythe’s father gave them the money to start their first company, making them wealthy through that business and others. They had two sons, Jeffrey and Gary.
Charities: Broad and her husband backed educational causes through the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. The foundation aims to increase learning opportunities for students in underserved communities so that they can achieve their full potential.
The Broads gave a substantial amount to higher education organizations, including Michigan State University (MSU), where Eli attended. They contributed $28 million to build the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, designed by award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. The museum opened in November 2012. In 2014, The Broad Foundation declared an additional $5 million donation to support exhibitions at the Broad Art Museum at MSU.
Broad and her husband played a significant role in supporting scientific and medical research through the Broad Foundation. In 2003, they donated $100 million to establish the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, with a focus on genomics research. They continued their support with another $100 million in 2004 and a substantial $400 million in 2009, making the institute an independent nonprofit. In 2013, the Broads contributed an additional $100 million to the organization.
A collaboration between the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (created by voters), the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (which gave $30 million in 2006) led to the creation of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of Southern California (USC).
In 2007, the Broads donated $20 million to the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Then, in 2008, they made a significant gift to the University of California, San Francisco, for the new headquarters of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research, which opened in February 2011.
4. Marijke Mars and World Famous Mars Business
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Net worth: 9.3 billion USD
Business: Mars Inc.
Marijke Mars and her three sisters inherit the family’s large candy and pet food business, Mars, Incorporated. When their father, Forrest Mars Jr., passed away in 2016, all four sisters each inherited an estimated 8% stake in the company. Frank Mars, her great-grandfather, started the candy company in 1911.
Early life: Marijke Mars belongs to the fourth generation of the Mars family. Her late father was Forrest Mars Jr. (1931–2016), and she has three sisters: Pamela Mars-Wright, Valerie Mars, and Victoria B. Mars. In 2016, she inherited around an 8 percent stake in Mars Inc., which turned her into a billionaire. According to Forbes, her shares were valued at $9.3 billion in 2023.
She graduated from Duke University with a B.A./B.Sc. After graduation, she worked as a regional manager for Kal Kan Foods, a pet food company of Mars Inc. Currently, she works at Mars Food. She married Stephen J. Doyle in 1991 but later divorced him in 2000.
Charities: For the COVID-19 Pandemic: This business owes two foundations called the Mars Family Foundation and the Mars Wrigley Foundation. Especially when the health crisis started, the Foundation gave an emergency grant in collaboration with Give2Asia to the Hubei Red Cross Foundation. This support aimed to address the urgent need for protective gear for frontline healthcare workers in Wuhan, China.
The Mars Wrigley Foundation plans to give emergency grants to local NGOs that meet the basic needs of communities worldwide. They understand that each community is different, with varying needs. Their goal is to help the most vulnerable people with the most critical needs. Whenever they can, the Foundation works together with local initiatives to make a bigger impact on communities. The Foundation is committed to providing up to $3 million USD for this emergency response.
Marijke, using her role on the board, has pushed for sustainable practices at Mars Corporation, notably decreasing the company’s carbon footprint. This involves investing in renewable energy for their factories and advocating for responsible sourcing of raw materials.
All in all, the Mars Wrigley Foundation funds initiatives that help the environment, animals, and wildlife, as well as promote oral health and well-being, sustainability, food security, and human services.
5. Laurene Powell Jobs and Apple
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Net worth: 13.6 billion USD (2023)
Business: Apple, Walt Disney
Laurene Powell Jobs inherited her business fortune, mainly from shares in Walt Disney and Apple. This wealth came from her late husband, Steve Jobs, who was a co-founder of Apple and passed away in 2011. Powell Jobs founded and leads the Emerson Collective, a firm that invests for impact, supports philanthropy, and advocates for causes like environmental justice, health, immigration, and education.
In 2017, Powell Jobs bought The Atlantic and invested in other media outlets and nonprofit newsrooms like Axios, ProPublica, The Athletic, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Early life: Powell Jobs grew up in West Milford, New Jersey. She got a B.A. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences and a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. She earned her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1991.
Powell Jobs, along with others, started Terravera, a natural foods company that sold products to retailers in Northern California. She also sat on the board of directors at Achieva, a company that developed online tools to aid students in preparing for standardized tests.
Before attending business school, Powell Jobs worked for Merrill Lynch Asset Management and spent three years at Goldman Sachs as a fixed-income trading strategist.
Charities: In 2021, she started the Waverley Street Foundation and pledged to give $3 billion over the next ten years to organizations working on climate change through creative solutions and environmental justice.
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