Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

NZ women lag behind on world rich list

Wildfire co-founder Victoria Ransom, who sold her company to Google, is listed as NZ's second richest woman, worth $300m.
Wildfire co-founder Victoria Ransom, who sold her company to Google, is listed as NZ's second richest woman, worth $300m.

The percentage of female multimillionaires in New Zealand is below the global average, research shows.

Only 6.3 per cent of Kiwi multimillionaires are women, compared to the worldwide average of 10 per cent, a study by business magazine Spear's and consultants WealthInsight found.

It places New Zealand 36th on a list of 42 countries surveyed - below Australia (8.8 per cent), the UK (11.4 per cent) and the United States (9.4 per cent).

Japan and Saudi Arabia took the bottom two spots. Topping the list was Portugal, followed by the Philippines, Peru and Hong Kong.

"Countries like the Netherlands (5.9 per cent), Belgium (6 per cent) and New Zealand we might well assume had a fairer distribution of wealth with their liberal politics and diversified economies, so it is surprising to find otherwise," Spear's editor Josh Spero said.

However, business experts believe New Zealand may have performed poorly on the list because New Zealand is "a nation of small businesses" which people start up for lifestyle reasons rather than to make money, and because women are not as driven as men to make money.

"The data tells us that just over a third of women who go into business go into business for lifestyle and flexible hours. So there isn't that appetite to make millions of dollars," said Allison Fairkettle, of business management company MYOB.

"The motivation is more lifestyle or turning a passion into a business, or a hobby into a business, rather than going into business for pure commercial reasons."

She said it was a common trait among Kiwis who, in her experience, are less focussed on the bottom line.

"There are quite distinct differences in the business approach and the business ambition in New Zealand to Australia," said Fairkettle, who has work experience in both countries.

"It tends to be the Australians are far more ambitious than the New Zealand businesses, who again are highly motivated by lifestyle, and get to a certain point of earning and are very comfortable."

She also suggested New Zealand's geographical position may hinder the sort of bulk exports which are needed to have a large impact on individual businesses.

However she said the number of women going into high-growth areas, such as construction and agribusiness, was on the up, and that would provide an opportunity for more women to "increase their net asset growth - because really that's the only way you become a millionaire".

Tara Lorigan, chief executive and founder of Company of Women, which includes on its board Sharon Hunter, Sarah Paykel and Dr Lee Mathias, agreed that women usually set up a business for reasons other than money.

"They are consciously driven by values and the desire to make a difference. Their businesses tend to be driven by that. They often don't have any commercial background and therefore struggle with commercial thinking because there's a perception that it is misaligned with their values," she said.

"It's very important for women to feel that their values are aligned with their business and their commercial growth, and when they get that they start to learn very quickly how to be commercial and become successful quickly."

This, combined with a lack of confidence, holds many women back, she said, particularly at the start.

"Women will tend to default to the, `I'll just see how it goes', and I remember this at the beginning of my journey, I didn't feel particularly driven until I got clear that if I was able to create a model I could make a big difference," Lorigan said.

"That energised me and kept me going at times when I wasn't getting the commercial part of it right."

She added: "Women's confidence is a challenge in a way that men's isn't ... what women tend to assume when something goes wrong is, `it's me'.

"I certainly had it myself; it definitely was one of the factors that delayed my success."

Generally speaking, she said "men are more about the transaction, women are more about the people".

However, she was positive, saying that she believed "in time we'll be able to show a difference in those numbers", pointing to a global trend of women moving into business ownership.

"There is certainly a gender change happening, but I guess the change that will make the biggest difference is in understanding the female dynamic. It's a really good one, women make phenomenal leaders once they align some things," Lorigan said.

"All the research points to women being really strongly robust in the boardroom."


Country - Percentage of female multimillionaires


1: Portugal - 23.8

2: Philippines - 21

3: Peru - 18.3

4: Hong Kong - 18.0

5: Turkey - 17.4


38: Netherlands - 5.9

39: Russia - 5.7

40: Mexico - 5.3

41: Saudi Arabia - 3.8

42: Japan - 3.7

(Source: Spear's magazine)



1: Liliane Bettencourt (France) - US$30 billion; Heir to L'Oreal fortune, she and her family own 30 per cent of the beauty company.

2: Christy Walton (USA) - US$28.2 billion; inherited the fortune of her husband John, whose family own Wal-Mart.

3: Alice Walton (USA) - US$26.3 billion; Wal-Mart heiress.

4: Iris Fontbona (Chile) - US$17.4 billion; inherited the business empire of mining magnate husband, Andronico Luksic.

5: Georgina Rinehart (Australia) - US$17 billion; inherited and now runs the large mining business previously owned by her father.

(Source: Forbes magazine's World's Richest Women list 2013)



1: Anne and David Norman - NZ$500 million; owners of shopping chains Farmers and Whitcoulls.

2: Victoria Ransom - $300 million; co-founder of technology company Wildfire Interactive.

3: Jan Cameron - $290 million; founder of outdoor adventure chain Kathmandu.

4: Rosemari and Jim Delegat - $280 million; sister and brother winemakers, including the Oyster Bay brand.

5: Diane Foreman - $185 million; owner of the Emerald Group, which includes property as well as ice cream brands Movenpick and New Zealand Natural.

(Source: The National Business Review's NZ Rich List 2013)


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