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Three Florida women make Forbes list of 50 wealthiest self-made women

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Three Florida women have made the Forbes inaugural list of the nation’s 50 richest self-made women.

Neerja Sethi tops the list of Florida’s wealthy ladies. She’s tied at number 14 with a net worth of $1.1 billion. Sethi lives in the posh Fisher Island just outside of Miami. According to the 2010 census, Fisher Island had a population of fewer than 500 people and the highest per capita income in the nation.

Sethi co-founded an IT consulting and outsourcing company called Syntel with her husband – also a billionaire, Bharat Desai. The company employs 24,000 people worldwide. Sethi is the company’s vice president of corporate affairs. She also served as Syntel’s treasurer during its first 16 years in operation.

Sethi holds a Bechelor of Arts and Science from Delhi University in India, a Master of Science degree from Oakland University and an MBA from Delhi.

Also on the list is pharmaceutical firm cofounder Jane Hsiao. Hsiao lives in Davie, Fla., also just outside Miami. Hsiao’s post as vice chair and chief technical officer with Opko has landed her at 29 on the list with a net worth of $510 million.

Judge Judy barely made the list. Judy Sheindlin’s gig as the feisty television court reality show landed her at number 49 on the list with a net worth of $250 million. Just in case there was any question as to whether or not Sheindlin’s courtroom is real, the TV judge earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence from New York Law School. She was the only woman in a class of 126.

Sheindlin’s fame kicked off in 1993 when her don’t-mess-with-me attitude led her to be the subject of a 60 minutes profile and a subsequent offer for a syndicated show.

Judge Judy lives in Naples. She has five children, who probably never back talk their wealthy mother.

This is the first-ever list of wealthiest self-made women. The list contains just a handful of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce and Madonna. Oprah is number five on the list with a net worth of $3 billion. Beyonce tied for number 49 with Judge Judy and Madonna slipped into the number 28 spot with a net worth of $520 million.

Jessical Alba is on the cover of the Forbes issue containing the story Natural Women. She’s noted as one of eight women to watch for founding The Honest Company. The company is worth a good $200 million. They make all-natural, non-toxic products like sunscreen, baby diapers and wipes and various other personal care products.

The wealthiest woman on the list is Stanford University dropout Elizabeth Holmes. She founded a blood testing firm in 2003 after her uncle died of cancer because it wasn’t detected early enough to treat. The loss prompted her to ditch her education to launch Theranos. That company now creates blood tests that are cheaper, faster and less painful than others. Her company was valued at $9 billion in 2014.

With a $4.6 billion net worth, Holmes is also the world’s youngest female billionaire. She’s only 31.

Rounding out the top five are Diane Hendricks at $3.7 billion, Doris Fisher and Jin Sook Chang with $3.1 billion each and Oprah.

Hendricks owns the wholesale building material distribution company ABC Supply.

Fisher is the co-founder of Gap and Chang is the co-founder of Forever 21.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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