Closing The Gender-Gap: Number Of Billionaire Women Rising


There’s a lot of debate regarding the gender gap. Mostly the discussion is about the discrepancy in payment between men and women. The latter group is often chronically underpaid compared to their male counterparty. But also in wealth there’s a huge gap. The good news is: the gap is closing. According to wealth manager UBS and consultancy firm PwC, the number of female billionaires rose with factor 6.6 to 145 during the recent 20 years. That is faster than the male increase of 5.2 times to a total of 1202. These numbers also show that there’s still quite some room to catch-up…

Interestingly, the larger part of the growth in female billionaires was witnessed in Asia. In the Billionaires study, UBS and PwC note that the number of female billionaires leaped from 44 to 116 during the period from 2003-2013. In Asia, this number increased 8.2 times to a total of 25. Much more modest in growth percentage, but still decent numbers, were shown in Europe were the total of female billionaires grew from 21 to 57. USA holds the largest number of female billionaires with 63, up from 37 ten years ago.

The richest female billionaires in Asia are entrepreneurs and therefore self-made billionaire. Although UBS declines to mention names (in good Swiss tradition), an example may be Zhou Qunfei, Asia’s richest woman and current no. 165 on Forbes’ Billionaires list. As a result of the IPO of Lens Technology, one of the world’s largest maker of glass covers for mobile phones and tablets, she holds a net worth of approximately $7.5 billion. But also Chan Laiwa is a good example (Forbes’ no. 194), making her $6.8 billion fortune in real estate. Female billionaires in Europe and the US often inherited their wealth. For example, the richest woman on the planet is Liliane Bettencourt with an estimated net worth of $39.5 current no.11 on Forbes Billionaires list. Her father, Eugene Schueller, founded L’Oréal in 1907. But of course Alice Walton ($30.1bn, no. 18) and Christy Walton ($28.8bn, no.20) of Wal-Mart are also good examples, with Laurene Powell-Jobs a noteworthy recent newcomer on no.38 (net worth $20.1bn). Actually the two Asian Billionaires are the only in the female top-20 who didn’t inherit the larger part of their fortunes.

Nevertheless, the US holds a high-profile name in self-made billionaire Elizabeth Holmes ($4.5bn, no.346). She is founder of diagnostics firm Theranos. She founded the firm in 2003 to revolutionize medical tests by using only a few drops of bloods. And there’s role model Oprah Winfrey, still good for a respectable $3.2bn. So ambitious female company founders have plenty of inspiration to make a shot to the list.

What’s also fueling hope, is that the Billionaires List becomes bigger and bigger. Twenty years ago, there were ‘only’ 289 billionaires, according to UBS and PwC. For the latest report, they counted 1347. Bad news for the original happy few: only 126 names of that list are still billionaire. Nevertheless, this original group saw its fortune increase with 2.9 billion on average. And how much are all 1347 names worth in 2015? A staggering $5.4 trillion, a plus of $4.7 trillion in 20 years. Now that’s what we call ‘balance sheet expansion’…