Guess How Many of the World’s Youngest Billionaires Are Women

For those who simply want an answer: Five. Five out of the 29 individuals (17%) who are categorized as young billionaires are women. This information comes from a Forbes article that was released earlier this year that defined young billionaires as individuals who are under the age of 40. These women are Huiyan Yang, Yvonne Bauer, Serra Sabanci, Ana Lucia de Mattos Barretto Villela, and Lee Seo-Hyun. Besides their plethora of money, these women have some other characteristics in common. They all come from extremely wealthy families and none of them are American. Huiyan Yang’s father was a real estate developer who transferred his stake to her six years ago. Yvonne Bauer is the owner of her family’s publishing company. Sabanci’s wealth comes from Sabanci Holding, which is a Turkish financial conglomerate. Ana Lucia de Mattos Barretto Villela is a member of a prominent Brazilian banking family. Finally, Lee Seo-Hyun is the daughter of the chairman of Samsung, Lee Kun-hee.

In comparison to the percentage of women CEOs at Fortune 500 companies (4.2%), the 17% figure should be reassuring. However, all five women were born into money. None of them are "self-made women" and as mentioned before none of them are American. This should be an alarming statistic for a country that tells young girls that they can accomplish anything that boys can. I believe that this low percentage of young female billionaires can be greatly attributed to the fact that under the age of 40 many women need to make decisions about their family: whether or not to get married, whether or not to have children, and how many children to have. Additionally, the fact that the United States is one of the least flexible countries when it comes to parental leave plays a major role in the lack of young American women billionaires. More flexible parental leave policies will create an environment that could support the creation of young female billionaires in the United States. 

In contrast, these young female billionaires' male counterparts include many Americans and innovative entrepreneurs such as the founders of Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Most of the males on the list do not have previous familial ties to money.

It is important to note that this article looks at a very small subset even among billionaires. There are currently 1,426 billionaires in the world but only 29 of these individuals are under 40 years old. Based on statistics from 2012, when looking at billionaires as a whole, women are still underrepresented. In 2012, 104 out of the 1,226 total billionaires in the world (roughly 8.5%) were women. Statistically women make up roughly half of the population. So why are women not as represented when it comes to the world’s richest individuals?

Some experts point to the claim that women tend to be more risk-averse compared to males. Others argue that even in today’s day and age familial responsibilities fall more heavily on women, making it even more difficult for them to reach billionaire status.

Does the fact that there is not one American young female billionaire say something about America or its culture? Does the fact that women of all ages are underrepresented say something about gender equality internationally? Why do you think women are struggling in comparison to men in this area?