Photograph of a desk with name plate saying "LADY BOSS"

Just 15 per cent of this year’s list are women and less than ten per cent can claim that their fortune is self-made. — Marten Bjork | Unsplash

25 female billionaires now reside in the UK, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2020, but the pay gap persists even at the top among the wealthiest.

The Sunday Times Rich List 2020 revealed the phenomenal wealth of women in the UK. Names include TetraPak co-owner Kirsten Rausing, songwriter Kirsty Bertarelli and online gambling company Bet365’s Chief Executive Officer Denise Coates.

Nevertheless, even with this year’s record number of female entrants they only account for 150 of the country’s 1,000 wealthiest individuals, partners and families. Furthermore, only 97 can call themselves self-made, with the other third acquiring their wealth through marriage or inheritance.

The gender pay gap continues to be a measure of how much men and women earn as well as a key comparison metric for gender equality. Sam Smethers, Chief Executive Officer at the country’s leading charity for gender equality and women’s rights The Fawcett Society, gives insight into the apparent inequality seen in the 2020 Rich List, explaining that: “It’s a consequence of a lifetime of inequality for women.”

The rich list: the UK’s wealthiest billionaire women

Topping The Rich List at number six is Ms Rausing and her husband Jorn of the Swedish family responsible for TetraPak with a £12.1 billion fortune (a decrease of £156 million from 2019). Ms Rausing owns one-third of the holding company that controls TetraPak: the paper and plastic cartons that a significant amount of the world’s consumer beverages are stored in. Swedish-born, she is the granddaughter of Ruben Rausing, founder of the company.

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken is the second wealthiest woman and ninth richest person in the country together with her husband, Michel de Carvalho. Owner of a controlling stake in the second-largest brewery, she has amassed a personal wealth of £10.3bn. However, she has lost £1.7bn since last year’s list was published. 65-year-old Ms Carvalho-Heineken is the daughter of Freddy Heineken and she owns one-quarter of the family-named brewery giant.

The third richest woman in the UK (and 13th wealthiest person in the country) is Marit Rausing, a relative of Kirsten Rausing, and her family. Marit Rausing is wife to the late Hans Rausing, son of the TetraPak company founder Ruben Rausing. She was left with an estate of £9.6bn after the death of her husband in 2019. Hans sold his share of the now largest global food packaging company to his brother Gad in the 1990s.

Songwriter and former Miss UK Kirsty Bertarelli is the fourth richest woman and the 14th wealthiest person in the UK. The wife of the Italian-born Ernesto Bertarelli, they boast a fortune of £9.2bn acquired from the biotechnology company Serono. Ms Bertarelli’s worth has fallen by over £500m from 2019: a trend seen among many in this year’s list.

The sixteenth wealthiest person in the UK — and fifth richest woman — is Bet365 CEO Ms Coates who shares her wealth with her father Peter and brother John. Unlike others on the list, her wealth has increased by £310m from last year to a total of £7.2bn in 2020. Ms Coates paid herself a phenomenal £323m in salary and dividends last year, enabling her to rise to fifth place. The payout is the largest amount ever paid to a chief executive officer of a UK company, breaking the previous record of £265m held by Ms Coates from the previous year. She is the eldest daughter of the chairman of Stoke City Football Club, Peter Coates.

The Sunday Times Rich List 2020: the ten wealthiest women in the UK

  1. Kirsten Rausing — £12.1bn
  2. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken — £10.3bn
  3. Marit Rausing — £9.6bn
  4. Kirsty Bertarelli — £9.2bn
  5. Denise Coates — £7.2bn
  6. Salma Hayek — £6.6bn
  7. Baroness Howard de Walden — £4.3bn
  8. Leonie Schroder — £4bn
  9. Carrie Perrodo — £3.4bn
  10. Harriet Heyman — £3bn

Wealthiest self-made newcomer

Alongside the record-breaking 25 female billionaires in this year’s list, there are also 150 women with personal fortunes of over £120m. The newest entrant to The Rich List 2020 is singer and songwriter Rihanna with a net worth of approximately £468m.

The Barbados-born performer made the list after it was confirmed that she is indeed living in London. Her personal wealth has been amassed through her singing career that spans eight albums as well as her cosmetics partnerships with luxury brand LVMH plus her lingerie range.

Significant losses across the board

A concurrent trend seen among this year’s financial elite is the combined wiping-off of over £54bn from their fortunes, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time a drop has been seen among the net-worth of the UK’s 1,000 wealthiest since the 2008 financial crash. 

The Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family, as well as the chemical engineer turned financier and industrialist Sir James Radcliffe, each saw £6bn wiped from their wealth during these unprecedented times.