The Rising Affluence of Women

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 7:06 PM EDT

Thorvaldsen's Female ThinkerWomen are working harder, succeeding more, investing smarter, and getting richer, according to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Barclays Bank. The report combines insight from a survey of 600 wealthy individuals, comment from international thought leaders and experts, existing research data, and case studies to make its case. Here are the headline findings:
  • Affluence of women is increasing: 'Women' and 'wealth' are two words being heard together more frequently, and the commercial world is sitting up and taking notice of women's growing spending power. Globally, women are becoming an economic force to be reckoned with.
  • The 'Glass Ceiling' persists: While the US and UK lead on the number of management positions held by women, the 'glass ceiling' persists and an equal number of women to men on company boards and in government is predicted to still be some way off.
  • Business as a driver of wealth: The perception of wealth gained via inheritance or marriage is becoming outdated, but as women become more independent and increasingly common in the world of business, what price does their success have on family and lifestyle?
  • Education is the cornerstone: While men and women have broadly similar views about the key determinants of their wealth, in particular around education,a significant difference between the genders is that women are more likely to cite a strong family background as being influential.
  • Women as wise investors: Motivations to amass and protect wealth are neatly divided between spending on the present and saving for the future. Financial security in retirement is the main goal, followed by a better personal lifestyle and enjoyment of the finer things in life.
  • An appetite for risk: Women have a more cautious approach to risk, proving themselves to be 'purpose driven' investors, less focused on income and growth. Women want to know more about and understand an investment proposition, and financial services providers are paying considerable attention to making their offering more female-focused. Experts claim that by applying this same energy, other industries will be better-placed to tap into this fast-growing market.
  • Better knowledge-- or over-confidence?: Overall, the majority of men make the financial decisions in a marriage or partnership, but this is changing for the younger generations as the Internet, newspapers and specialist publications play an increasing role in helping women become better informed about personal finance.
  • Enjoyment of wealth: Travel, eating out and cultural events are the most popular ways of enjoying wealth for both men and women.
The text is a little hard to read, but the following table does a good job of comparing women's sources of wealth. The respondents were asked to select three sources. It's clear that hard work is the main source of wealth for women across the world. Note, however, that North America has the highest rate of wealth creation by divorce settlement...

Source of Women's Wealth by Region
I was a little surprised, however, not to find much insight into the variability of wealth among the global population of women. Probably have to dig into other sources for that, but the Barclays/EIU report certainly offers some uplifting insight into the shrinking wealth disparity between men and women.

(Image of Thorvaldsen Female Thinker by snoozeboy, CC 2.0)