Women still face battles in many areas of life to gain an equal footing to men, but there’s one area where younger females at least are now being shown to be surpassing the male of the species.
But this isn’t particularly a cause for celebration. New official figures highlight a trend for women aged between 18 and 34 years old to be more likely to fall into personal insolvency than men.
The data, released by the Insolvency Service and covering England and Wales, shows that women aged between 18 and 24 were almost twice as likely as men in the same age group in 2013 to have seen their financial situation get so bad that they were tipped over the edge into insolvency.
Once both sexes reach the age of 35, the pattern is reversed, and men are more likely to become insolvent.
Despite the tough financial climate, personal insolvency rates have generally been on a downward path in recent years. But within this trend, the numbers have been falling faster for men than for women.
Overall, men are still more likely than women to go insolvent, but only by a whisker, these new figures show. So why is the gap between men and women narrowing when it comes to insolvency?
Well, celebrity culture, more relaxed attitudes to debt and changes to women’s working lives are among the various suggestions that have been put forward.
Louise Brittain, a council member for insolvency trade body R3 and a partner at Wilkins Kennedy chartered accountants, says the figures are a reflection of how society in general has changed in recent years.
She says women falling into insolvency often have lower amounts of debt, associated with taking out credit, which they are unable to pay off.
Brittain says: “Social media and ‘celebrity culture’ mean young people, and young women in particular, have to deal with added scrutiny about the way they look, the clubs they go to, or the restaurants they eat in. For some, it’s a recipe for spending beyond their means.
“This won’t be the case for all young women who run into financial trouble.
“Young women are still more likely than their male counterparts to be in part-time or lower paid work, resulting in tighter budgets.”
Attitudes towards money have changed for the younger generation, with the idea of being in debt not as “alien or scary as it once might have been”, she says, adding that students “will leave university with tens of thousands of pounds worth of student debt to their name, so there’s not the stigma of getting into debt that there once was”.
Changes to society are also placing a strain on the older generations who are supporting the young for longer, Brittain adds.
She explains: “We are living longer than we used to, we’re working longer, buying our houses later, saving less, supporting our kids for longer.
“The whole spending timeline has changed and it will take some time to adjust.”
Brittain also believes recent trends are likely to continue in the years to come.
She says: “Partly this is the fallout of the changing gender roles in society over the past few decades.
“In business, men have typically been more likely to take risks and have therefore been likelier to enter an insolvency procedure.
“As we see increasing numbers of female entrepreneurs, we may see more women entering insolvency in the higher age groups. "