Inheritance has traditionally been a key source of wealth for ultra-high net worth women, but the status quo appears to be shifting. Just as women have taken on greater responsibility in the workplace and managing family finances, they are also joining the ranks of entrepreneurs earning themselves a place on the world’s rich lists.

The role of women in society is changing. Over the five years to the end of 2018, women became billionaires at a faster rate than men as they continued to challenge the conventional balance .  We are starting to see women outnumbering men in higher education, too. In 39 out of the 47 countries with data in the UN Economic Commission for Europe region, more university places were given to women than men. With women increasingly empowered to make their own decisions and achieve their goals, they are taking on roles that were once considered male-only. Women’s representation among entrepreneurial billionaires is only going to rise. 

Women’s rise in the workplace

Diversity in the workplace remains a challenge, but we are starting to see some progress. Although the percentage of women in manager roles has decreased by 5% over the past five years, there has been a 26% increase of women in c-suite positions. These figures come from a McKinsey report , which also revealed that women in senior positions are promoted at a faster rate than men. 

Many large companies are taking steps to make it easier for women to break the glass ceiling. IBM, for example, has policies in place to allow workers to take sabbaticals to care for their families. It also has a scheme to cover the costs of vitro fertilization, egg freezing, and surrogacy expenses. Similarly, Salesforce  offers a generous 26 weeks of leave for the primary caregiver and 12 weeks for the secondary caregiver. It also has proactive professional development policies in place, helping women to take the next step in their careers.

According to the McKinsey report, the last five years have seen 13% more companies commit to gender diversity in the workplace. As more businesses promote equality and inspire career progression, we should see a higher number of women enjoying the kind of career they want.  

Making gains and taking control

Over the long term, women’s wealth appears to have grown at a relative rate to men’s in most countries . It is thought this equilibrium is down to the increase of women earning an income and a more equal share of wealth between spouses. However, there is a question mark over whether the gap between men and women’s wealth globally has narrowed over the last 10 to 15 years.

Interestingly, evidence also suggests that women are taking a more active role in managing the family’s finances. According to a survey from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, 72% of millennial women consider themselves to be the main financial planner in their family . These women have experienced the financial crisis and the fewer job prospects that ensued. Taking part in controlling the finances offers a way for women to plan confidently for the future should this situation occur again.

Self-made women hit the rich list

Where women traditionally relied on inheritance for their ultra-wealth, we are now seeing more women take control of their own destiny to become self-made millionaires. In just one year, the number of women on the Forbes 400 self-made list jumped up from just three to 23 . 

In a world previously dominated by men, women are challenging perceptions of stereotypical female qualities. They are matching traits previously thought of to be male. From taking risks to making practical and often hard-hitting decisions, women are proving they have the right mix of skills and attitudes to create and lead successful businesses.

The future for women’s wealth

If current trends continue, we can expect to see more self-made women earning themselves a place on the world’s rich lists. 

To meet the demands of changing wealth patterns, the financial services industry will need to move beyond traditional perceptions of the male entrepreneur. Self-made women will understandably have their own priorities and expect the flexibility to manage their wealth accordingly. 

Our insurance products are built with flexibility in mind, so individuals and families have the freedom to design the future they want. Speak to us today.


- [1] UBS PwC Billionaires Report 2019 
- [2] – Statistics 2019 – Women outnumber men in higher education but gender stereotyped subject choices persist  
- [3] Women in the Workplace 2019 - McKinsey 
- [4] 
- [5] Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2019 
- [6] The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2018 - The new face of wealth and legacy: How women are redefining wealth, giving and legacy planning 
- [7] Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2019



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