The number of female billionaires worldwide has increased nearly sevenfold in the past 20 years to 145 – and it is Asian entrepreneurs who are driving this growth, according to a new study.
The report found that women have outpaced men when it comes to membership of the billionaires’ club with both their ranks and their wealth growing at faster rates. Their number compares with only 22 in 1995.
But the club is still very much dominated by men over 60. The current number of male billionaires is 1,202 – but has only grown by a factor of 5.2.
In 1995, there were 289 billionaires globally, but by 2014 their number had swelled to 1,347, according to the study published by Swiss bank UBS and professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Over that period, while global GDP has jumped from $30tn (£19.8tn) to more than $77tn, the wealth of the planet’s billionaires has leapt almost eightfold, from $700bn to $5.4tn.
Asia’s fast-growing young economies have been the driving force behind greater diversity, as they have allowed a small but increasing number of female entrepreneurs to create billion-dollar legacies, said the study.
Ten years ago there were said to be just three Asian female billionaires; now there are 25, more than half of whom are first-generation entrepreneurs.
They tend to be younger than their female peers elsewhere – the average age is 53 – and some were educated in Europe or the US before returning home and implementing western business practices, which complement local business traditions, said the report’s authors.
The report claimed the rise of the Asian female entrepreneur was “creating an entirely new billionaire demographic”.
The people surveyed identified a growing “anti-wealth sentiment” among politicians, with higher taxes and increasingly onerous financial regulations. As the report put it: “Currently, billionaire families see regulation and taxation as a key menace to maintaining their legacy.”
However, some of the world’s richest people have taken a very different view: nearly one-sixth of US billionaires have pledged to donate nearly all of their wealth to philanthropic causes during their lifetimes.
Earlier this month, the Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares in their lifetime, currently worth about $45bn, via a philanthropic organisation called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.