Laurene Powell Jobs
Palo Alto, California
Technology; philanthropy (Emerson Collective)
The businesswoman Laurene Powell Jobs is the widow of the late Steve Jobs, the iconic cofounder of the Apple computer company. After Jobs died in 2011 at age 56 after a long battle with cancer, Powell Jobs inherited his massive fortune, which some estimates suggest could be in the range of around $14 billion, making her the sixth-richest woman on the planet and the wealthiest woman in the United States’s tech industry. Before marrying Steve Jobs, she was a trading strategist for Goldman Sachs and the cofounder of a Terravera, a natural food company that was launched in the 1990s.
Today Powell Jobs serves as the founder of the Emerson Collective, an LLC that focuses on social change, with programs on education, immigration, and more, that is named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of her favorite writers. In 2018 the Washington Post described the Emerson Collective, founded in 2004, as a “kind of Justice League of practical progressives.” The organization has lived up to its name—a recent example came when the collective acquired the majority stake in the Atlantic. The Emerson Collective has also supported the French artist JR on a project through which he created artworks on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, in a statement critiquing the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies. (She further explained her support for her the artist in an essay written about him for Time magazine.)
In some ways, Powell Jobs’s interest in JR may stem from a larger willingness to deal head-on with immigration issues—she has also sponsored a DACA-related program in the United States. The program was called the DACA/Dreamers Outdoor Art Project, and it culminated in a photography project at Indiana University South Bend that brought together countless portraits taken of the many faces behind, and reliant on, the DACA program.
Powell Jobs is a major sports lover, so much so that her fandom has crossed over into business: in 2017, she acquired around 20 percent of the company Monumental Sports & Entertainment—the owners of the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, the WNBA Mystics, and the Capital One Arena.