Women are making great strides in education, pay and promotions. But there is one economic arena where women are slipping further behind men: billionaires.
Women make up only 11.7 percent of the world’s billionaires, according to a study by Wealth-X, the wealth research firm. That’s down from 11.9 percent in 2015.
The number of self-made women is even smaller. More than half of today’s women billionaires inherited their wealth, compared with only 8 percent of male billionaires who inherited. In addition, 30 percent of women inherited a portion of their wealth, meaning that only 17 percent of today’s women billionaires are self-made.
Forbes made a big deal about the number of women billionaires reaching a record 256 this year. But all of the top 10 women inherited part or all of their wealth, from the No. 1-ranked Alice Walton to L’Oreal heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and the third-ranked Susanne Klatten, of BMW and pharma fortune.
Women have accounted for only 10 percent to 12 percent of the Forbes list for years.
The question is why?
Some of the most-cited culprits are capital-raising and boardroom gender bias. Women entrepreneurs have a harder time raising capital for their business ideas and face largely male boards when trying to get the top CEO jobs or clients. Others cite cultural barriers to women entering the fields of technology and engineering, where many of today’s billionaire tech founders get their start.
Author Jessica Knoll, in a New York Times op-ed titled “I Want to Be Rich and I’m Not Sorry,” said the problem goes deeper. She said when they’re growing up, “girls are expected to be caretakers, boys, the ones who will deliver a return. If you want to create your own wealth, the confidence to take calculated risks is a necessary skill. Placing the needs of others above your own is not.”
Knoll also says that women need to learn to brag and to want more — like being able to “jet to Mexico on a Tuesday.”
“If anyone calls that obnoxious, I want to do what men do, and shrug.”