Laurene Powell Jobs, born November 6, 1963, is an influential American businesswoman, executive, and philanthropist. She is best known for her significant philanthropic ventures and her marriage to Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Inc.
Powell Jobs was born and raised in West Milford, New Jersey. Her father, a Marine Corps pilot, died in a plane collision when she was only three years old. Powell Jobs excelled academically and, following her high school graduation, went on to earn a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the same university.
After her undergraduate studies, Powell Jobs worked for Merrill Lynch Asset Management. Eventually, she returned to academia, pursuing and earning an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1991.
Laurene Powell Jobs is a co-founder of Terravera, a company specializing in natural foods that were distributed to various retailers across Northern California. She also held a position on the board of directors for Achieva, a company that developed online resources aimed at improving students’ effectiveness in standardized test preparation.
Prior to her time at business school, Powell Jobs had roles at renowned financial institutions. She was employed at Merrill Lynch Asset Management and also spent three years as a fixed-income trading strategist at Goldman Sachs.
During her time at Stanford, Powell Jobs met her future husband, Steve Jobs, at a university event. After they married in 1991, she began working at Pixar, serving on the board of directors as a significant stakeholder. However, her career reached beyond her involvement in Apple and Pixar. In 1997, Powell Jobs co-founded her natural foods company, Terravera, which she operated until it was sold in 2003.
Despite her involvement in business, Powell Jobs’ most significant impact arguably lies in her philanthropic initiatives. In 1997, she co-founded College Track, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving high school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation rates for under-resourced students.
After the death of Steve Jobs in 2011, she inherited the Steven P. Jobs Trust, which made her a major shareholder in Apple and Disney. She converted this into the Emerson Collective, an organization focusing on education, immigration reform, and environmental conservation.
Steve Jobs’ Death
Steve Jobs, the iconic CEO of Apple, tragically passed away on October 5, 2011, at the age of 56, due to complications related to a recurrence of his islet cell neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Following his death, Laurene Powell Jobs became the beneficiary of the Steven P. Jobs Trust. As of May 2013, the trust held a significant 7.3% share in The Walt Disney Company, valued approximately at $12.1 billion, and 38.5 million shares in Apple Inc.
By July 2020, Forbes had ranked Powell Jobs and her family as the 59th richest in the world in their annual billionaires list. They were also placed 30th on the Forbes 400 list. Notably, according to the same Forbes list, Powell Jobs held the title of the richest woman in the technology sector.
She is also very well known for her participation in philanthropy. In 1997, Laurene Powell Jobs, in collaboration with Carlos Watson, established College Track. This East Palo Alto-based nonprofit organization aims to enhance high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion rates for students from underprivileged backgrounds. Notably, a significant number of College Track’s high school graduates are first-generation college students.
Approximately 90% of these students pursue a four-year college education, and 70% complete their degree within six years, far surpassing the national average of 24% for first-generation college students. College Track operates facilities in numerous locations, including East Palo Alto, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, Watts, Boyle Heights, New Orleans, Aurora (Colorado), Denver, and the Washington D.C. area. Powell Jobs has expressed interest in expanding, with a waiting list of five cities for potential new centers.
In September 2015, Powell Jobs embarked on an ambitious $50 million project known as XQ: The Super School Project. This initiative encourages groups of teachers, students, and community leaders to develop and implement innovative high school plans. These involve changes to school schedules, curriculums, and technologies, all aimed at overhauling the nation’s outdated high school education model. Funding for XQ originates from Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective.
Following an initial financial input of $50 million, XQ committed to additional funding, awarding ten schools $10 million each, bringing the total investment to $100 million. These schools were selected from nearly 700 applicants across the country. Russlynn H. Ali heads the team of advisors guiding Powell Jobs in this endeavor.
Powell Jobs is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council and, as of 2018, holds positions on the board of directors for College Track, Conservation International, and Stanford University. She also serves as the chair of the board of directors for XQ and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations’ chairman’s advisory board. In 2014, Forbes ranked her as the 29th most powerful woman in the world, up from the 39th position in 2013.
Despite her extensive philanthropic work, some critics have noted a lack of transparency and accountability in her philanthropy. In 2019, Inside Philanthropy designated Powell Jobs as the “Least Transparent Mega-Giver.”
As of 2021, Powell Jobs’ net worth is estimated at $21.3 billion, making her one of the richest women in the world. Her wealth primarily comes from her stakes in Apple and Disney, inherited from her late husband. However, she also accumulated significant wealth from her own business ventures, including her natural foods company, Terravera.
Powell Jobs’ achievements extend beyond business success. Here are some examples: