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China dominates the list of the world’s richest women

Most Powerful Women 2015Most Powerful Women 2015

A woman who started her career by making watch lenses for about $1 a day is now the world’s richest self-made woman.

Zhou Qunfei, a factory worker-turned-founder of touch screen manufacturing company Lens Technology —which counts Apple and Samsung among its clientele—came in at No. 1 on a new list of the wealthiest women to found or co-found the companies that created their riches.

The 45-year-old Zhou, who ranked No. 18 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women’s Asia-Pacific list this year, is worth $7.8 billion according to Shanghai-based research firm Hurun, which released the report.

Zhou, who grew up in China’s Hunan province, is one of eight Chinese women to make into the top 10 on Hurun’s list. China dominated the ranking, with women from the nation accounting for nearly two-thirds of the 73 billionaires recognized by the researchers.

For years, Chinese women have been climbing the ranks of the world’s wealthy, in part because of the country’s longstanding one-child policy and the emphasis on family, allowing grandparents to help care for children. China’s women have also seized the opportunity to make something of themselves. As Age of Ambition author Evan Osnos told Fortune’s Nina Easton earlier this year, “The ethos of the last 30 years is that to get rich is glorious, that instinct is gender neutral … One of the measurements [women] have for themselves is the financial success of their companies and themselves.”

Number two on the list is Chen Lihua, the 74-year-old founder of Fu Wah International, a commercial real-estate company based in Beijing, whose net worth is valued at $7.7 billion. Real estate was the dominant industry for self-made women this year, with 25% of the list’s billionaires making money from the sector, which has minted many well-heeled Chinese as the country continues to build up its cities.

Zhang Yin, founder of Nine Dragons Paper, is ranked fourth on Hurun’s list and an example of the ingenuity of many of China’s entrepreneurs. Ms. Zhang started her recycling and paper making company with the simple idea of making money off what the U.S. throws away; she decided to by scrap paper from the U.S. and turn it into cardboard to ship exports from China back to western countries. Today she’s worth an estimated $4.1 billion.

Other top 10 women include Zhang Xin, CEO of real-estate firm SOHO China, who spoke to Fortune last year about working with starchitect Zaha Hadid to transform Beijing’s skyline, and Melissa Ma, the wife of Baidu co-founder Robin Li.

The U.S. was represented by two women. The embattled Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes, with an estimated $3.4 billion, and Diane Hendricks, co-founder of roofing materials company ABC Supply, clocking in with $2.7 million.

Spain was the only other country to crack the top 10, with investment firm Omega Capital founder Alicia Koplowitz tying for the 10th spot with Hendricks.

Hurun, which started the self-made women’s list in 2006, based each female’s wealth off of their assets as of August 14. The firm defines “self-made” as an individual who is either the founder or co-founder of the wealth. Cut-off for the Top 50 females was $1.2 billion – up 50% from last year – and the list’s members had an average wealth of $2.3 billion, up 33% from 2014’s rankings.

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