New Zealand's gender equality may be hindered by legislation the country has in place, according to a global ranking research report conducted by World Bank.

Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform canvasses 10 years of law reform in 133 countries and scores them on overall progressiveness and shifts to remove barriers for women in the workplace or who want to start businesses.

It looks specifically at how women's employment and entrepreneurship choices are affected by legal gender discrimination.

The report found a typical economy gives women just three quarters of the rights it gives men - but progress in equality had been made, with 274 reforms to various laws and regulations in the 131 countries over the past 10 years.


New Zealand ranked in 37th place, given a score of 91.25, in line with Albania and Taiwan but way ahead of the United States which scored 83.75 along with African counterparts - Kenya and Malawi.

Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden are the only economies which give women and men equal legal rights. These countries scored 100 on the index.

Australia and Britain were ranked among the top 20 countries for equal legal standing between men and women.

The average global score was 74.71. In Africa and the Middle East, the average score was 47.37.

Sub-Saharan Africa was found to have had the most reforms promoting gender equality in the past 10 years, including by introducing sexual harassment laws and mandated non-discrimination in access to credit.

On the ease of running a business metric, the Democratic Republic of Congo along with 23 other economies, from across every region except for the Middle East and North Africa, prohibited gender discrimination in access to credit.

New Zealand, along with Australia, Ireland, Azerbaijan and Germany, among others, scored 100 on equality of running a business.

New Zealand also scored 100 on equal rights for managing assets, but just 75 on getting paid and getting a pension.


In the report, World Bank interim president Kristalina Georgieva said gender equality was critical for economic growth.

"Many laws and regulations continue to prevent women from entering the workforce or starting a business; discrimination that can have lasting effects on women's economic inclusion and labour force participation," Georgieva said.

"Women are half of the world's population and we have our role to play in creating a more prosperous world. But we won't succeed in playing it if the laws are holding us back."

New Zealand scored 100, full marks, for equal rights to run a business. Photo / World Bank
New Zealand scored 100, full marks, for equal rights to run a business. Photo / World Bank

Countries which failed to make reforms experienced a smaller increase in the number of women working and in the percentage of women working relative to men, Georgieva said.

She Owns It founder and chief executive Rachel Lewis, who has teamed up with Facebook to offer women in businesss digital marketing skills, said there was a lack of resources and support for women in New Zealand starting up their own firms.

"With so many women in New Zealand starting businesses, alongside running their families, they find it extremely hard to make it successful because they are battling a lot of obstacles," Lewis said.

These obstacles - perception of motivations, women getting a lot less venture capital funding and lack of support at a grassroots level - can have a huge impact on businesses' bottom line, she said.

"A lot of people still look at women in business as having a little hobby when actually a lot of these businesses, with the power of technology, could grow and scale quite quickly with a bit more investment from their communities and the Government.

"Equality-wise, I think there's more access to support for men than there is women."