Wealth in Asia

Asian women stride into billionaire ranks

'Making a billion dollars is easy, keeping it is hard'

The number of women from Asia entering the billionaire ranks is on the rise and unlike their Western counterparts, they tend to be self-made, a new survey from UBS and PwC found.

"Over 50 percent of Asian female billionaires are self-made and over 95 percent of them identify as wealth creators within the family, which means they are driving (wealth creation) going forward as well," James Purcell, head of ultra-high net worth cross-asset strategy at UBS, told CNBC Wednesday.

He compared that with Europe, where fewer than 10 percent of female billionaires are self-made.

Within Asia, "you've got the change in social attitudes coming together with economic growth," he added.

The Seattle skyline with the space needle.
Top 20 billionaires worth as much as half of America

Over the past decade, Asia's female billionaires rose by more than eight times from three in 2005 to 25 in 2014, the UBS/PwC report said, noting that around half of them are first-generation entrepreneurs. The three leading sectors in which the billionaires created their wealth were real estate, industrials and health, according to the report.

Within the U.S. and Europe, 81 percent and 93 percent of women in the billionaire ranks respectively, have mostly inherited their wealth, the report said.

Overall, the number of female billionaires has risen by 6.6 times from 22 in 1995 to 145 in 2014, the UBS/PwC report said. But men still greatly outnumber women on the list, rising by 5.2 times to 1,202 in 2014, the report found. The study surveyed more than 1,300 billionaires over the past 19 years and accounts for around 75 percent of global billionaire wealth, it said.

But the report noted that even among women who became billionaires due to inheritance, there are signs of growing assertiveness.

"We discovered that women inheriting business empires from their husbands or fathers are far more likely than their male counterparts to take the initiative, stepping into the patriarch's shoes and often driving expansion to the next level," the report said. "Furthermore, billionaire patriarchs and multi-generational families are now more frequently preparing their daughters to play significant roles in their businesses. Choosing the best successor irrespective of gender is to be seen as a strategic step to safeguard the family's interests."

Women are also often leading families' philanthropic efforts, the study found.