Approaching the top of an affluence ladder, you would see fewer and fewer women.
Where are we going? To the gender pay gap.
The Affluence Ladder
The Top of the Ladder
Among the top 1% of all earners in the U.S., 16% are female. Continuing upward, only 11% are in the top .1%. And among the world’s 2,500 billionaires, 294 (12%) are women.
Recent Fortune 500 data tells the same story. Yes, women occupy nearly half of all managerial positions. As executives though the proportion drops to 14.3% and for CEOs, 3.8%.
Why There Are Fewer Females at the Top
A recent NBER paper presented some possible reasons that fewer women earn high salaries:
- Occupation: Women tend to enter lower paying occupations where everyone is paid less.
- Flexibility: Certain occupations offer less support for women who need more time off or a flexible work schedule. At high powered law firms and businesses, the culture prioritizes long and rigid hours and teamwork. As a result, employees who need flexibility receive a wage penalty.
- Discrimination: Experiments that interchange entirely equal men and women demonstrate discrimination against mothers. Perhaps because of their perceived “breadwinner” responsibilities, the opposite is true for fathers and husbands.
- Social norms: Anticipated attitudes about women could affect their aspirations.
- Legislation: Ironically, well-meaning legislation has not always helped. After the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, more women returned to work but were not promoted.
Our Bottom Line: Human Capital
The gender difference for education and work experience is pretty much gone. By 2011 women were more likely than men to have moved beyond a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, a 7-year work experience gap in 1981 has narrowed to 1.4 years.
Where are we? Let’s conclude with the glass ceiling and the pipeline. Maybe the glass ceiling remains a barrier. But it is also possible that we just need patience as more women move through the pipeline to the highest rungs of the affluence ladder.
My sources and more: The NY Times and the WEF ideally set the scene for a discussion of top female earners. But this paper on income distribution and this study on the gender income gap had the real detail.