Female billionaires have an edge

How women entrepreneurs are catching up fast

21 Nov 2019

Key takeaways

  • Female billionaires are growing faster in number than their male counterparts, as Asian businesswomen especially forge ahead.
  • With the characteristics of Athena—Greek goddess of wisdom, courage and inspiration—many of these entrepreneurs are making their fortunes in consumer and retail.
  • Learn more in the UBS Group AG/PwC Billionaire Report: The Billionaire Effect.

There’s never been a better time to become a billionaire. More people are joining this ultra-wealthy elite globally than ever before, swelling their ranks to more than 2,100 people globally.

But female billionaires are quietly gaining an edge on men. Their number has grown by almost half (46%) in five years, up from 160 to 233. The number of super-successful businesswomen is expanding fast.

While most female billionaires come from the US and Europe, Asian businesswomen are breaking into the billion dollar club fastest, as we report in the 2019 edition of the Billionaire Report, called The Billionaire Effect. In just five years, they have been a major driver of female billionaires’ total assets, which have climbed by over a quarter (26%) to USD 871.2 billion in this time. More than half of Asia’s female billionaires are self-made, a higher proportion than elsewhere.

The “Athena Factor”

In the spirit of Athena—Greek goddess of wisdom, courage and inspiration—the world’s female billionaire entrepreneurs are a relatively new phenomenon, many of them from the consumer and retail sector.

Female businesswomen from across the world who have recently become billionaires include Anastasia Soare, the Romanian-American businesswoman who founded the beauty brand Anastasia Beverly Hills. And, in China, business partners Li Haiyan and Shu Ping became billionaires after the 2018 stock market flotation of their Haidilao Hotpot restaurant chain, which is expanding internationally. Finally, Russia’s Tatyana Bakalchuk, founder of Wildberries, the country’s biggest online retailer, is another new billionaire. A former English teacher and mother of four, she founded the business while on maternity leave in 2004.

Growing influence

Women are also gaining much more sway in billionaire families, assuming greater responsibility for the governance and identities that ensure billionaire legacies last. Our 2015 Billionaire Report, The Changing Faces of Billionaires, cited the dictum “behind every powerful man there is a powerful woman,” as these women act as alter egos to male entrepreneurs and leaders of family dynasties.

They are also leading families’ philanthropic and impact investing endeavors, pioneering the new approaches of strategic philanthropy.

Once wealthy, the next step among today’s emerging female billionaires is to turn their talents to innovative ways to tackle the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. Just as they are inventive in business, so they are increasingly so in philanthropy.

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To explore how women are creating wealth and safeguarding legacies.