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NZ Entrepreneurs Gender Gap Widens

For Immediate Release


Auckland, February 9, 2004 – The proportion of women engaged in entrepreneurial activity compared to men has slipped over the past three years in New Zealand, according to a key finding of the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor New Zealand (GEM NZ) announced today.

Conducted yearly by UNITEC’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in Auckland, the survey is part of a comprehensive international study of entrepreneurship and its relationship to economic growth. The full GEM New Zealand report with all key findings is due to be released on March 15.

GEM NZ focuses this year on New Zealand women entrepreneurs and the authors have been surprised by their findings.

UNITEC lecturers Shelley Eden and Prue Cruickshank, describe their findings as “a disturbing trend”, in the paper accompanying the GEM report entitled ‘Widening Entrepreneurial Gender Gap in New Zealand?’

“The results are somewhat baffling considering the high status of women in many areas of the economy, holding powerful positions such as prime minister, chief justice governor general and chief executive,” Ms Eden said.

Their study found that in 2003, the entrepreneurial gender gap (the proportion of women entrepreneurs to all entrepreneurs) slipped to 37 per cent compared to 43 per cent in 2001. (See Table 1 below).

The total entrepreneurship activity (TEA) rate for New Zealand women dipped from 13 per cent of the population in 2001 to 10 per cent in 2003. During this period the TEA for men has remained stable at around 17 per cent. In 2002 TEA rates declined in all the GEM countries, attributed to the impact of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Table 1: New Zealand Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) by gender,
Male (TEA)
Female (TEA)
Proportion of female entrepreneurs




Despite New Zealand’s widening gender gap, New Zealand’s women entrepreneurs still ranked highly in TEA compared to many other countries. At seventh place in the global rankings, New Zealand women entrepreneurs were ahead of other OECD countries and the United States and Canada and just ahead of Australia.

"Our interviews with experts have consistently shown that New Zealand women possess the necessary skills to be entrepreneurs and so answers are needed as to why the gap even exists," Ms Eden said.

Lack of provision of free access to childcare and financial assistance for women entrepreneurs were considered by some to be barriers to female entrepreneurship. Other experts, however, had maintained that no barriers existed.

Ms Eden said New Zealand's low employment rate could be having an influence on the gender gap. With the availability of more jobs, women with children in particular may be more likely to take the much less risky option of employment to running their own business.

"One thing is clear, if the rate of entrepreneurial activity among women could be raised to equal that of men, the New Zealand economy would reap huge benefits", she said.

Interestingly, Maori women scored a significantly higher TEA rate (13 per cent) than New Zealand women of European descent (9 per cent). Maori women are also five times more likely to be opportunity entrepreneurs than Maori males.

GEM NZ also found Maori women are 'opportunity entrepreneurs'. They are five times more likely to be 'opportunity entrepreneurs' than Maori males. ('Opportunity entrepreneurs' are people who identify available business opportunities and exploit them as opposed to 'necessity entrepreneurs', who create self-employment in response to job loss or redundancy, when other other options for work or participation in the economy are absent or are considered unsatisfactory.)

About the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)

Launched as a joint research project in 1999 by the London Business School and Babson College in the United States with 10 countries participating, GEM now covers 41 countries and is the largest survey of entrepreneurship undertaken in the world. New Zealand began participating in GEM in 2000. Over the past three years GEM NZ has surveyed more than 7000 New Zealand adults and interviewed 100 experts including government, academic and industry leaders.

About the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE)

CIE facilitates the implementation of cutting-edge research and forward thinking entrepreneurship education with the objective of turning innovation into sustainable commercial reality for New Zealand’s small and medium enterprises and the corporate community.


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