New Zealand women rising above challenges to sit on top of the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018

Today, women continue to make notable headways in the entrepreneurial landscape, with an estimated 163 million women starting or running new businesses in 74 economies around the world in 2016, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs.

New Zealand tops the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018 world chart for the 2nd successive year in a row, with one in every three business owners a woman. This is the highest rating among the high-income and advanced economies. 

Using 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018 looks at how 57 economies (representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labour force) differ in terms of the level of Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The Index also provides insight on which factors and conditions are most conducive to closing the gender gap among entrepreneurs/business owners in an economy. We also look at which conditions are the biggest disablers or deterrents of women’s ability to thrive in the business world.

Overall, the evidence shows that New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland offer the most favourable conditions to drive women business ownership such as ease of doing business and cultural perceptions of women as entrepreneurs.

Compared to their global peers, women in New Zealand feel less inclined to engage in entrepreneurship relative to men. In fact, for every 100 males undertaking entrepreneurial activity, there are only 63.5 females doing the same. This ratio is unexpectedly low compared to other markets such as Australia, Spain, Sweden, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Russia.  

Results show society is less receptive of female entrepreneurs. The index showed low ratings for ‘Cultural Perception of Women Entrepreneurs’ (70.0, rank 19) and the sub-indicators including; Social encouragement of female entrepreneurship (56.8, rank 39), Gender bias in exposure to good business opportunities (62.2, rank 32), and Gender bias in entrepreneurial knowledge and skills (75.3, rank 30).

While the index suggests New Zealand provides mostly supportive conditions for entrepreneurial women, there are also some shortcomings that include: A lack of government programs geared towards supporting new and growing business (56.6, rank 32), Start-up opportunities for new businesses (73.0, rank 37), Low social acceptance of entrepreneurship as a desirable career (59.0, rank 39). Lower-than-expected level of national encouragement of entrepreneurial risk-taking: 55.2, rank 24.

OECD’s findings based on Labour Force Surveys reveal a level of gender bias when it comes to rewarding women practicing entrepreneurship as they receive 32% less pay/income than their male counterparts. These constraints help explain why New Zealand is below the MIWE Benchmark Trendline and its progress of women as business owners is underperforming.

Despite cultural constraints and gender bias, New Zealand has emerged a region with one of the highest numbers of female entrepreneurs in the world (74.2, rank 1). OECD’s findings tell us that nearly 47 per cent of the population express a preference to starting their own business rather than working for someone else and 80 per cent of women see entrepreneurs as positive role models. This could be attributed to their drive and passion when in pursuit of business opportunities, as well as their desire and ambition to succeed in becoming financially stronger, more independent, or to seek a better quality of life. 


Kendra Walls