New Zealand women

In 1893, we led the world as the first country where women won the right to vote, through their determined but lawful efforts.

Since then, progress towards women’s full participation at all levels has continued.  New Zealand women enjoy the protection afforded through a strong statutory framework giving them full and equal rights. 

At our last census just under 78 percent identified as being of European descent.  Māori, the indigenous population, were around 15 percent, Asian 9 percent, and Pacific peoples were 7 percent.

We recognise that women in New Zealand are not all the same. Indigenous women, Pacific women, Asian women, women with disabilities, and migrant women may have unique challenges and contributions and may require targeted approaches to ensure they have equal opportunity. 

New Zealand continues to maintain its role as a leader in the field of gender equality.  We are proud of our record of human rights and our legal framework that provides women with comprehensive protection against all forms of discrimination.


In education women continue to outperform men.  Participation in early childhood education continues to rise to a very high level including groups with lower participation.  The number of young women leaving school with at least Level Two NCEA and those participating in tertiary education and completing their studies continues to increase.  The gap between men and women holding tertiary qualifications decreased as younger age groups complete their studies.


The New Zealand labour force participation rate for women of working age is currently at 63 percent (June 2018).  The rate for Māori women is 59.3 percent and Pasifika women is 55.3 percent.

New Zealand's gender pay gap is its consistently one of the lowest in the world when comparing full time workers. The gender pay gap is 9.3 percent (2019). A gender pay gap means women's hourly rates remain behind that of men's. Women in New Zealand are doing far more unpaid work than men. About 63 percent of women's work is unpaid and 35 percent of men's work is unpaid. 


Health outcomes continue to improve for New Zealand women as a result of better access to primary care, better integration between primary and secondary care and improved maternity services.  HIV antenatal screening, increased coverage of breast and cervical cancer screening, and immunisation programmes are all contributing to lower rates of morbidity and mortality in women. 

Wāhine Māori

We have a specific section of our website focusing on wāhine Māori (Māori women).