Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

It's a start - NZ women get ahead

Magazine's 'glass-ceiling index' rating this country top draws mixed response

Faye Langdon. Photo / Supplied
Faye Langdon. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand has been ranked the best place in the world to be a working woman - but one advocate says the major obstacles and inequalities for women here are getting worse.

The Economist magazine's "glass-ceiling index", released yesterday for International Women's Day, rated by developed country where women have the best chance of equal treatment at work.

The index is based mostly on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and compares five indicators across 26 developed countries.

The indicators are: the number of men and women respectively with tertiary education, female labour-force participation, the male-female wage gap, the proportion of women in senior jobs and net child-care costs relative to the average wage. The last indicator is given less weight because not all working women have children.

The index shows that New Zealand scored the highest on all of the indicators overall, The Economist advising its readers: "If you are a working woman, you would do well to move to New Zealand."

New Zealand's No1 ranking was met with a degree of disbelief by those commenting on the Herald's Facebook page yesterday.

"Even if New Zealand is 'at the top of the list', we still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the workplace," wrote Laura Flaherty.

"Mixed feelings," said Anthea Whittle. "Great that we're the best, sad that this is the best."

Faye Langdon, managing director of Global Women, a support and advocacy group for women in business, said other detailed research on the issue showed overall the situation was worsening for women in the workplace.

"You just have to look at the stats. Is it acceptable to have 65 per cent of boards without a woman, is it acceptable to have only 26 per cent of senior executive teams with a woman holding management roles, when you (comprise) half the workforce?

"If you have got daughters or nieces or cousins, is that the future you want for them? And I think that's a very simple question."

Ms Langdon, managing director of Langdon Consulting, said there were "bright spots", including companies like BNZ who were actively increasing women in management roles.

"But just 5 per cent of our CEO roles in New Zealand are held by women. Thirty per cent are held by women in Australia."

The fifth Census of Women's Participation on how women fare in professional and public life was issued by the Human Rights Commission last November.

At the time, outgoing equal employment opportunities commissioner Judy McGregor said it showed women's struggle to get top jobs remained a frustrating issue 10 years on from when such data was first tracked.

There had been a two or three percentage point increase in many areas for women at senior levels since 2010. But McGregor said the lack of women at the top remained "systemic and frustrating".

Top 10

1. New Zealand
2. Norway
3. Sweden
4. Canada
5. Australia
6. Spain
7. Finland
8. Portugal
9. Poland
10. Denmark

- NZ Herald

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