Mastercard Index: New Zealand, Taiwan (China) and Singapore offer the most supportive entrepreneurial conditions for women in the Asia Pacific region

November 20, 2019 | SINGAPORE | By Barkha Patel

Philippines, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong SAR and Vietnam make the list of the top 20 global markets

New Zealand emerged as the top ranked market in the Asia Pacific region, and second in the world behind only the United States, for its conduciveness to women’s entrepreneurship. Mastercard today revealed the third edition of its Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, celebrating the markets where women entrepreneurs are most likely to thrive, while sounding the alarm that there are still significant inequalities that hold us all back.

Based on publicly available data from international organizations including the International Labor Organization, UNESCO and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the global Index tracks the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners in 58 societies (representing nearly 80% of the world’s female labor force) across three components: (i) Women’s Advancement Outcomes, (ii) Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and (iii) Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.

The results reaffirmed that women are able to make further business inroads and have higher labor force participation rates in open and vibrant markets like New Zealand, Singapore and Australia, where the support for SMEs and ease of doing business are high. Women are also able to draw from enabling resources, including access to capital, financial services and academic programs. Typically, these markets are also driven by social norms that deeply encourage and promote innovation, creativity, risk‐taking and success through personal perseverance, and grant women fair opportunities to rise as business leaders, gain tertiary education and to be perceived and accepted as successful entrepreneurs. Out of the 20 highest-ranking markets globally, 80% are high income economies.

Top 20 markets for women entrepreneurs

Rank Market MIWE Score Rank Market MIWE Score
1 United States 70.3 11 Philippines 65.1
2 New Zealand 70.2 12 France 64.8
3 Canada 69.0 13 Australia 64.7
4 Israel 68.4 14 Thailand 64.62
5 Ireland 67.7 15 Hong Kong SAR 64.61
6 Taiwan (China) 66.2 16 Spain 64.5
7 Switzerland 65.8 17 Denmark 64.3
8 Singapore 65.6 18 Portugal 64.2
9 United Kingdom 65.6 19 Vietnam 63.4
10 Poland 65.1 20 Colombia 63.3


Women Business Owners (as % of Total Business Owners) is the benchmark indicator of the MIWE, which is derived from the 3 components outlined above. For more information, please refer to Table 7 in the white paper.

Of the 58 markets included in the Index, eight moved up by more than five ranks year-on-year. Asia Pacific’s fast-rising markets included Indonesia (+13), Taiwan (China) (+9) and Thailand (+5) which all saw significant jumps in their rankings.

On the other end of the spectrum, for markets at the lower end of the Index, women tend to be held back by lack of opportunities to assume higher-level economic roles, are marginalized by poor support for SMEs, low financial inclusion, poor opportunities for tertiary education and often restrictive and underdeveloped business and financial systems that make doing business difficult. Importantly, societal and cultural norms also discourage them from working, being ambitious, or assuming leadership roles.

“What is clear through this research is that gender inequality continues to persist across the world, although it manifests in different ways. It isn’t a developed or developing world problem alone. Even in markets with the most promising entrepreneurial conditions, women’s business ownership hasn’t reached its full potential. This marginalization hinders the empowerment of women socially, professionally, economically and politically – to the detriment of society as a whole. That’s why Mastercard is tackling this problem head on, all over the world, by providing the tools and networks that drive inclusive growth and put the digital economy to work for everyone, everywhere,” said Julienne Loh, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Partnerships, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

Global Top 5 & All AP Markets: Women business owners as a percentage of all business owners

Rank Market % Rank Market %
1 Uganda 38.2% 27 Mainland China 25.6%
2 Ghana 37.9% 33 Thailand 23.4%
3 Botswana 36.0% 40 Indonesia 20.3%
4 United States 35.1% 41 Taiwan, China 20.2%
5 New Zealand 31.8% 42 Hong Kong SAR 19.8%
6 Russia 31.2% 46 Japan 17.3%
8 Australia 30.9% 47 Korea 16.8%
20 Vietnam 27.0% 48 Malaysia 16.2%
24 Singapore 26.3% 53 India 7.4%
25 Philippines 25.8% 56 Bangladesh 4.4%


“Women-owned and led businesses are strong catalysts for economic growth, improving the lives of everyone. With this study, we are shining a light on those under-represented because even today, inequality and exclusion still hold women back. At Mastercard, we believe good ideas come from everywhere. Now is the time for governments and organizations to power together to support women to advance their businesses by eradicating gender-bias and ensuring greater access to education and financial inclusion,” said Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chairman, Mastercard.

In addition to highlighting the progress of women entrepreneurs on a global scale, Mastercard is committed to helping pave the way for progress and prosperity of businesses owned by women around the world. In Asia Pacific, Mastercard is cultivating entrepreneurs through programs like Start Path and Fintech Express. The company has provided financial literacy training to nearly 200,000 women across Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam, and offers grants to women to grow their businesses through the Mastercard Impact Fund. In September 2019, Mastercard announced that it is working with the apparel industry to financially empower tens of millions of garment factory workers around the world by digitizing wages. Furthermore, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth has helped to bring to life more than 750 financial inclusion programs across more than 80 countries to tackle income inequality challenges.

Download the Mastercard Index for Women Entrepreneurs 2019 white paper and infographic.

Barkha Patel, Vice President, Communications, International Markets (IMK), Mastercard

Media Contacts

Sarah Guldin, Mastercard
+65 6390 6199 |
Ashleigh Nghiem, Agency (Weber Shandwick)
+65 6390 8022 |


The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019 is the third report profiling the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs/business owners across 58 societies around the world. With Angola as the newest market added to the Middle East & Africa region, the Index expands its attempt to track the factors that underpin the gender gap among business owners. Representing nearly 80% of the world’s female labor force, it highlights how the 58 markets differ at 3 levels: (i) Women’s Advancement Outcomes, (ii) Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and (iii) Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.  The results also shed light on which factors and conditions are the most conducive in helping to narrow the gender gap among female entrepreneurs/business owners, or the most inhibitive and disabling, thereby weighing on women’s ability to thrive in business.

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.