Global advisory firm WTW (formerly Willis Towers Watson) has released findings from its 2022 Global Gender Wealth Equity report, which revealed that on average, women approach retirement with just 74 per cent of the wealth accumulated by men.
The wealth gap is larger in Australia, where women retire with approximately 72 per cent of the wealth of men.
The disparity reportedly increases with seniority, with the findings suggesting women in senior expert and leadership roles accumulated less than two-thirds (62 per cent) of the wealth of their male counterparts.
This narrows to 69 per cent for mid-level professional and technical roles, and 89 per cent for frontline operational roles.
The results also indicate geographical disparities, including across the Asia-Pacific region (APAC), where the gender wealth gap ranges from 64 per cent in India to 90 per cent in South Korea.
Of the 12 APAC markets analysed in the study, six have a lower wealth gap than the global average — China (78 per cent), Japan (82 per cent), Philippines (79 per cent) and Singapore (79 per cent).
Australia also reportedly falls below the global average when assessing the share of senior leadership positions occupied by women — 2 percentage points below the global average of 9 per cent.
According to Manjit Basi, senior director, integrated & global solutions at WTW, the results of the study are “startling”.
“It shows that there is a gender wealth gap consistently across the 39 countries that we studied,” she said.
Ms Basi has claimed that the primary drivers of the disparity are gender pay gaps, delayed career trajectories, gaps in financial literacy, and family caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace.
Louise Campbell, WTW’s head of retirement, Australasia, said she is “unsurprised” by varying results across cultures, traditions and differences in the relative prosperity and social equality in the APAC region.
However, Ms Campbell said she is surprised by the wealth gap across senior expert and leadership roles in Australia.
“It is imperative that activities around gender diversity, equity and inclusion broaden to look at economic wealth at the end of women’s working careers,” she said.
“Pay is a fundamental factor that underlies the gender wealth gap and while addressing the gender pay gap will partially close the wealth gap, it won’t eliminate it entirely.
“Enabling career progression and designing total rewards programs which do not penalise women for taking career breaks and assuming career responsibilities is imperative to provide a more equitable wealth outcome for Australian women.”
The WTW study acknowledged the rise in environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities, as well as broader corporate focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Gender inequity in wealth accumulation is under-researched and overlooked. The reality is that the wealth inequity issue and its causes and effects are multidimensional and should be studied and addressed as such,” Ms Basi added.
“By focusing on accumulated wealth at retirement, the disparity can be quantified, and actions can be taken through broader society, government and organisations to equalise wealth outcomes.
“This is a clear opportunity for corporations to differentiate themselves as progressive employers by taking action to support the equalisation of gender wealth accumulation.”