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NZ women losing ground in the fight for equality

Women in New Zealand are losing ground in the gender equality fight, according to the World Economic Forum's latest findings.

Women in New Zealand are losing ground in the gender equality fight, according to the World Economic Forum's latest findings.

New Zealand dropped one place to sixth overall in the Global Gender Gap Report 2011, with Ireland muscling into the top five. Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden all retained their top rankings respectively, having closed more than 80 percent of their gender gaps.

The Global Gender Gap Report’s index assesses 135 countries, representing more than 93 percent of the world’s population, on how well resources and opportunities are divided amongst males and females in terms of education, political empowerment, health and economic participation (including employment).

The index scores can be read as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men.

“A world where women make up less than 20 percent of the global decision-makers is a world that is missing a huge opportunity for growth and ignoring an untapped reservoir of potential,” said Klaus Schwab, Ffounder and chairman of the World Economic Forum.

For the first time, data sets analysing national policies designed to facilitate female workforce participation have been included in the report. Nearly 90 percent of countries have legislation prohibiting gender-based workplace discrimination, but less than half have a national benchmarking tool.

According to the report, 20 percent of countries surveyed have mandated female corporate board representation and 30 percent have mandated political participation

Report co-author Saadia Zahidi said smaller gender gaps were directly correlated with increased economic competitiveness.

"With the world’s attention on job creation and economic growth, gender equality is the key to unlocking potential and stimulating economies."

In a statement, the WEF said while 85 percent of countries are improving their gender equality ratios, for the rest of the world the situation is declining, most notably in several African and South American countries.