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Women Are Still Barred from the Billionaire Boys’ Club

Man's hand on knee holding smoking cigar, close-upMan's hand on knee holding smoking cigar, close-up

Over the past decade, American women have made major strides in economic equality. More women are entering the labor force, becoming Fortune 500 CEOs, and landing seats on corporate boards than ever before.

Yet when it comes to breaking that very highest of economic glass ceilings—the top 0.1% of earners—progress has been more or less stagnant, according to a new report.

A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) study published last month found that American women account for about 16% of the top 1% of earners in the U.S. and just 11% of the top 0.1% as of 2014—and that the number of women in these uppermost financial echelons has only modestly increased since 1999. (The income cutoff for the 1% in 2014 was $390,000; for the 0.1% it was $1.32 million.)

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It seems that the gap gets bigger the higher up the income ladder you go, though just how big depends on who you ask. In March, Forbes reported that there are 190 female billionaires in the world (10% of the total), while research firm Wealth-X reported in August that there are 294 (12% of the total).

What Forbes and Wealth-X do agree on, however, is that the number is getting smaller. By both estimations, the number of female billionaires has decreased from 2015 to 2016.

Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the NBER paper told the New York Times that at the current pace, it would take nearly a century for women to make up half of the top one percenters. “We are still a long, long way from gender equality at the top,” he told the publication.

While gender equality among the wealthy has stagnated, women in the general population have made significant strides, according to the paper. Controlling for inflation, working-age women in 2014 make five times more than their 1962 counterparts in median pre-tax income.