The richest woman in Spain has come a long way since she dropped out of school at 11 to work as a seamstress. Mera and her former husband Amanacio Ortega founded Inditex, the parent company of Zara retail stores, in 1985, 10 years after they opened the first Zara store. Mera and Ortega divorced, but Mera still holds a 5.8% stake in the $16.1 billion company.
In 2001, Mera netted $600 million from Inditex's IPO, which she has used with the rest of her fortune to contribute to causes dear to her heart: a marine farm fishing group, a company that looks for cancer treatments in products from the ocean, and a maker of a fingerprinting system for newborns. In 1986, she founded the Paideia Foundation, an organization that works to help integrate vulnerable groups, particularly the disabled, more fully into society through programs such as education and employment training.