Young Women Have Shattered the Glass Ceiling in This One Industry

Women still suffer from a wage gap in most professions – earning on average 77 cents for every dollar that men make – but there is one industry that appears to diverge from the norm: the entertainment business for millennials. Specifically, there are more females than males on a new Forbes list of highest earning celebrities under 30 years old.

According to The Independent, Forbes gathered information from talent agents, managers, producers, and executives in order to compile "the entertainment-related income" of each artist for the past year. The rankings were released on July 22. 

The list is dominated by female celebrities. Lady Gaga, whose earnings were valued at $80 million, was Forbes' highest paid celebrity under 30. The outlandish and bold performer's "Born This Way" concert tour reeled in $168 million alone, despite the fact that a hip injury forced Lady Gaga to end the tour early. Taylor Swift was the third-highest ranking celebrity with an annual income of $55 million. Rihanna's yearly earnings of $43 million landed her in fifth place on the list, followed by Katy Pery, Adele, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kristen Stewart. 

By contrast, Forbes' list of the top 100 most powerful celebrities showed a different trend. Just over one third (34) of the ranked celebrities were females. Interestingly, six female celebrities outnumbered their male counterparts on the top 10 list, headed by Oprah Winfrey, Lada Gaga, Beyonce Knowles, Madonna, Taylor Swift, and Ellen DeGeneres. But male celebrities dominate the remaining slots. 

If women are generally earning less than men in most arenas, what explains this trend amongst millennial celebrities?

The celebrities who ranked most highly encapsulate today's pop culture and epitomize the generation that fuels it. Lady Gaga for instance, is a symbol of self-acceptance and embraces the qualities that make someone unique. Taylor Swift sings lyrics that every adolescent girl can relate to. The Twilight and Hunger Games sagas are essentially the book and film adaptations that millennials have grown up admiring, which is why Kristen Stewart and Jennifer Lawrence have top places on the list. 

While most influential athletes, entrepreneurs, and TV personalities tend to still be men, the music and film industry appear to be the two arenas where men and women have equal influence, and young actresses and singers are breaking in. 

But will these young female celebrities retain their prominent positions of influence in the future? Based on trends, young stardom comes and goes; those who make it to the top in the long run must adapt their roles and cater to new audiences. Compare the careers of the Olsen Twins, whose fame reached its prime and dwindled, with those of Madonna or Meryl Streep, who retained their fame by taking on new roles and altering their target audiences.