A new study by the London School of Economics has found evidence of a glass ceiling for women in terms of income distribution.

Using tax data from eight countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and the UK), the authors of the study looked for the first time at the gender composition of those with top incomes from all sources, not just earnings.

The report found that:

  • Women constitute less than a third of those in the top 10 per cent in all countries; in Norway the figure is 22 per cent
  • Women account for less than a quarter of the top one per cent in all eight countries, and less than 18 per cent in Norway, Demark and the UK
  • Only 9 per cent of the top 0.1 per cent in the UK are women, the lowest of the six countries that can be compared
  • The presence of women at the top has generally increased over time (although not in Australia), but less rapidly at the very top
  • Over time the speed of the fall in the presence of women moving from the top to the very top has become more marked. In other words, there appears to be a “glass ceiling” at the very top, despite some improvements for the top 10 per cent
  • In the UK while the share of women in the top 10 per cent and top 1 per cent has risen since the 1990s, the share of women in the top 0.1 per cent has not changed very much.

The authors argue that this is an important area of research because in the past, it was people with property who were rich. Today, they have been replaced by CEOs and entrepreneurs, among whom women are a minority.

The research also shows that it is important to look not just at the gender gap in pay from work, but also at who benefits from other kinds of income, such as dividends and interest.

Caroline Underhill, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Our readers may be more concerned about gender equality for the 80% and the widening gap between those lower down the income scale than the top 1%. However this does confirm that wealth does not buy gender equality, that the pay gap spans the entire pay scale and that in the UK we are still not doing enough to address the issue.”

To read the full report, go to: http://www.lse.ac.uk/InternationalInequalities/pdf/III-Working-Paper-5---Top-Incomes-and-the-Gender-Divide.pdf