The diamond collective

THEY have been tagged the ''diamond collective'' and Sydney's inner suburbs are their heartland. Women in their 20s, 30s and 40s with high incomes and unique spending habits are reshaping the city's economy.

One in four Sydney workers earning over $100,000-a-year are women, analysis of the census by a data management firm, Pitney Bowes Software, has revealed. Nationally, the proportion has reached a little over one in five. "Sydney is number one on the hit parade when it comes to professional, high-income women," said the firm's chief economist, Bob Schwartz.

Eight of the 10 suburbs in Australia with the biggest proportion of women workers on six-figure salaries are in Sydney, most of them in the city's inner-west. The highest concentration of high-income women is in the Sydenham-Tempe-St Peters area where 42 per cent of those earning over $2000 a week are female.

Mr Schwartz said the census figures indicate many of the city's high-earning females "are single, career-building women".

Amanda Stevens, a marketing consultant who researches female spending behaviour, labels this cohort the "diamond collective" because of their lifestyle and distinctive attitude to discretionary spending. Another tag she gives them is the "independent princesses".

They have the economic power able to follow through on their choices like no other generation of women. ''They are earning more, spending more and staying single longer," said Ms Stevens. "And they don't have to weigh up spending decisions against other conflicting priorities such as family."

Sydney's commercial strengths have swelled the ranks of its diamond collective. The city is a hub for industries that attract well-qualified female workers such as banking and finance, marketing, advertising, media, business services, telecommunications, education, fashion and entertainment.

The marketing executive Karli Smith grew up in rural Victoria and studied in Melbourne but felt she needed to move to Sydney to advance her career. She lives in Mosman, where 34 per cent of those with six-figure salaries are women.

"It was almost impossible to find something in the entertainment and media arena at that high-calibre level in Melbourne," she said. "That was the primary reason I moved to Sydney and I'll probably never leave here unless I go overseas for work.''

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Many of Ms Smith's friends in Sydney have moved from interstate for "the exact same reason".

Ms Stevens believes the diamond collective's willingness to splurge helped keep the economy growing during the global financial crisis. "Qualitative research that we did during that period showed that they had the least conservative response to the economic downturn - they continued to spend," she said.

Ms Stevens's research has shown many women in this demographic will choose to downgrade on supermarket brands to save money rather than give up personal services.

"In her mind the fortnightly pedicure is an important and necessary spending decision," Ms Stevens said.

The wealthiest neighbourhoods - Mosman and Double Bay-Bellevue Hill - are well down the list of suburbs with a large proportion of high-income women. "More people are married in Mosman than the average in Sydney so this lack of female earners in an otherwise affluent area could indicate the number of stay-at-home mothers," Mr Schwartz said.