Attack of the female millionaires

New research shows that inheritance, divorce and entrepreneurship are catapulting more British women into the seven figures.

Published April 26, 2007 1:00PM (EDT)

Wednesday's news about the increasing number of female millionaires in Britain played nicely into the fears of those poor guys convinced that feminism hasn't led toward equality but has taken us one step short of women's world domination. (If you're not clued into this parallel universe, it generally involves cranky, hairy she-devils enslaving nice guys and then leading them about on leashes and subjecting them to feminist theorizing, heavy-lifting chores and insemination on demand.)

"Divorce Makes Women Rich," yelped a headline from the Daily Telegraph. Alongside it was an equally surreal illustration: a skyscraper-size diamond overlaid with two feline, female eyes. (Get it? Gold diggers are responsible for shifting the financial gender balance.)

Forget the glass ceiling. Forget about that study that found female college grads earn 69 percent of what their male peers do! Those underearning women are just planning their strategy to catch a man, send him to an early grave or divorce and cash in.

Actually, though, the study's findings weren't quite so extreme. British market analyst Datamonitor found that in part because of inheritance and increasing divorce rates, women now make up 46 percent of all millionaires in Britain, a fact that banks and financial institutions have not noticed in their marketing to affluent clients. The analysts further found that the rise of U.K. millionairesses is also due to the increasing success of many female entrepreneurs.

I'm sure that among a certain class -- the very wealthy -- there's no dearth of stories about wives ">study from Ohio State University last year, divorce reduces a person's wealth (man or woman) by an average of 77 percent. Another study last fall suggested that broken marriages may be especially hard on women's health (as reported here in Broadsheet), since divorced women report more sickness than do their married counterparts.

This isn't to give divorce a bad rap -- it's a wonderful thing that people can choose to leave a relationship no matter how many eternal vows they previously pledged. And the benefits and detriments of divorce for women seem to be decidedly mixed. Despite the financial and health hits some women may take, other research has found that after divorce, women are happier than their former husbands.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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