Women are a ‘distinct minority’ among the top UK earners

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Women are appearing in more positions of power than any time in history. We’ve got a female PM, female UKIP and Green Party leaders and a female presidential nominee.

But, apparently women are still not quite smashing the glass ceiling when it comes to their financial status – pay parity remains a distant dream.

According to a report published by the LSE, there are very few women amongst the richest people in the UK and other OECD countries.

While the proportion of women among the wealthiest 10% and 1% has risen since the 1990s, the report concludes that there seems to be “something of a glass ceiling for women” – the higher the income bracket, the less women there are in it – as numbers of women in the top 0.1% of earners were seen to have changed very little since the 1990s.

In the UK, women make up 28% of the top 10% earners (those earning £40,400 and above), they make up 18% of the UK’s top 1% (those earning £119,000 and above) and only 9% of the top 0.1% (those earning £456, 000 and above) – of which there are 53,000.

The report also looked at Spain, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Australia and Norway – and found that the UK had the lowest representation in the top 0.1%. The highest was Spain, with 16.6.

pay gap

In all seven countries, researchers found a similar situation: a strong gender divide among the wealthiest, with men making up the majority of top income groups. Women made up less than a third of those in the top 10% in all countries looked at – with the distribution getting worse the higher the income bracket.

Co-author of the report, Alessandra Casarico, describes the findings as women getting “rarer the higher one climbs”.

“Women now make up more of the top income groups, but they are a distinct minority,” he says.

Professor John Hills, co-director of the LSE institute publishing the paper says:

“Right at the top it is still a male world. Women have managed to increase their representation in the top 10% because of their success in the professions and business, but few of them are among the very wealthiest.”

Speaking to the BBC, Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, says that the news was “depressing but unsurprising,” and the reasons for the discrepancy were:

“Unconscious bias, with men recruiting in their own image from informal networks, a male-dominated, long-hours culture and the unequal impact of caring roles, all contribute to perpetuating a no-go area for women at the top. It has to change.”