Women and wealth: The future is female

April 05, 2024 | Tasneem Azim-Khan, Vice president and Chief Investment Strategist, RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc.


Although inroads have been made, women still experience a significant gender wage gap across the world.

“OK ladies, now let’s get in formation!”—Beyoncé

The year 2023 brought the female economy squarely into focus, as women were consistently credited with boosting sales of struggling businesses, driving traffic and profitability back to movie theatres and underpinning a global economic multiplier effect.

Come on, Barbie, let’s go party

Stewarded by director Greta Gerwig and co-producer/star Margot Robbie, and featuring a female-heavy cast, the Barbie movie broke a number of box-office records: it’s the highest-grossing film by a female director and is Warner Bros.’ highest-grossing film in the U.S.—ever.

Following its much-anticipated release last July, the movie has grossed a staggering US$1.4 billion globally and spent a record-breaking 12-week stretch in the U.S. top 10 box office.   

All hail, Queen Bey

Beyoncé’s 2023 Renaissance World Tour was a smashing success, earning US$579 million globally. About 2.7 million fans attended 56 concerts in 39 cities.

Much has been reported on the singer’s economic “halo” effect (if you know, you know), or the “Beyoncé Bump,” as coined by Yelp, in which local communities and businesses see a noticeable economic impact when her tour lands in their town.

The economic multiplier effect was felt early on in her tour. For example, during her shows in Stockholm, Swedish economists blamed her for artificially inflating consumer prices. In the U.S., members of the “Beyhive” swarmed the cities in which she toured and provided a boost to area businesses.

According to Fortune magazine, Yelp searches for “nail technicians” tripled compared to the same period in 2022—that’s in addition to searches for local lounges and eateries (up 160 percent) near the shows’ stadiums.1

By the time the tour came to an end, it generated an estimated US$4.5 billion for the American economy—nearly as much as the 2008 Olympics did for Beijing, according to The New York Times.2  

The Taylor Swift effect

The singer’s 53-date Eras Tour generated an eye-popping US$1.04 billion in gross ticket sales—the first tour to ever hit the billion-dollar milestone, according to the live-music trade Pollstar.

Swift’s potential earnings from the tour in 2023 is expected to be north of US$4 billion—the most any artist has ever made from a single tour. In total, the Eras Tour is estimated to have created a US$5.7 billion boost to the U.S. economy –enough to hand out $20 to every person in the country. In addition, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, which opened in movie theatres last October, has grossed more than US$250 million.

These are but a few examples that underscore the rising economic power of women, and how they are increasingly influential contributors to economic growth.

But it’s not just celebrities who are making massive economic impacts. Globally, more than 80 percent of purchase decisions are made by women, and they contribute close to 40 percent of global gross domestic product.

Growing into their economic power

All of this is occurring against the backdrop of the great wealth transfer—a seismic change in wealth ownership from men to women.

A McKinsey & Company study released in 2020 found that women in the U.S. are set to control an unprecedented US$30 trillion in assets by the end of the decade, calling it a “potential wealth transfer of such magnitude that it approaches the annual GDP of the United States.”

In comparison, it is estimated that by 2028, women in Canada will control C$4 trillion in assets —almost doubling the $2.2 trillion they control today.

This transfer of wealth to women is driven predominantly by demographics: as male baby boomers die, they tend to bequeath their assets to their wives, who are typically younger and tend to live longer (six years, on average, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine).

In addition, we’re seeing trends showing that women are generating more wealth through increased participation in the workforce and entrepreneurship.

In Canada, women are amongst the most educated in the world, according to a 2022 Statistics Canada report, citing more than two-thirds (68 percent) of women aged 25-64 years with a college or university qualification in 2021, compared with an average of 44 percent among women in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

According to Pew Research Center analysis of government data, women in the U.S. now account for more than half of the college-educated labour force, having first made that leap in the last half of 2019.3

The ramifications of women ultimately taking bigger strides into their economic power are profound and far-reaching. Since women exercise their spending power in different ways, compared with their male counterparts, a shift of this magnitude has the potential to influence discretionary spending (e.g., retail, travel), health-care systems and services, and investing.

The gender pay gap is still a reality

While the transfer of unprecedented levels of wealth to women represents a meaningful opportunity for some of them to focus on investing, it’s important to note that, in general, most women still contend with the gender pay gap.

In 2022, American women earned on average 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Pew Research Center.4 In Canada, women are fairing slightly better, earning 89 cents for every dollar earned by men.

That gap widens significantly for racialized women, Indigenous women and women with disabilities.5

The stakes are further raised for women who assume caregiving roles, as they are typically forced to take a break in their career, which translates into lost income and savings. In 2022, more than 50 percent of women over age 15 provided some form of care to children or adults, and they were significantly more likely than men to provide care, according to Statistics Canada.6

As a result, their approach to investing is likely to reflect their current financial realities and take into consideration not only wealth, but health, lifestyle and legacy. According to the same McKinsey report, 70 percent of women who inherit wealth are likely to switch to a new financial advisor. This suggests that they are likely looking for someone with a deeper understanding of their objectives.

The increasing shift in economic power from men to women, coupled with an informed and holistic view of their investment goals, will help ensure women’s financial growth and stability for years to come.


Shin, Rachel. “Yelp Coins the ‘Beyoncé Bump’ for the Economic Halo Created by the Pop Star’s Renaissance Tour.” Fortune, 19 July 2023, fortune.com/2023/07/19/beyonce-renaissance-tour-economic-impact/ .

Wortham, Jenna. “A Silvery, Shimmering Summer of Beyoncé.” The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/09/27/magazine/beyonce-renaissance-tour.html .

Schaeffer, Katherine. “For Women’s History Month, a look at gender gains – and gaps – in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, 27 Sept. 2024, https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2024/02/27/for-womens-history-month-a-look-at-gender-gains-and-gaps-in-the-us/ .

Kochhar, Rakesh. “The Enduring Grip of the Gender Pay Gap.” Pew Research Center, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/03/01/the-enduring-grip-of-the-gender-pay-gap/ .

“The Gender Pay Gap: Pay Gap in Canada: The Facts.” Canadian Women’s Foundation, 23 Dec. 2022, canadianwomen.org/the-facts/the-gender-pay-gap/ .

6 “More than Half of Women Provide Care to Children and Care-Dependent Adults in Canada, 2022.” Statistics Canada, 8 Nov. 2022, www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/221108/dq221108b-eng.htm.

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