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Closing The Gap

These are the best places in the world to be a woman entrepreneur

The United States has emerged as the best place globally to be a woman entrepreneur, according to a new report from Mastercard.

The North American nation narrowly surpassed last year's leader, New Zealand, to rank as the global powerhouse for female founders in Mastercard's Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, which was released Wednesday.

The study, which drew on public data from bodies including the International Labor Organization, UNESCO and the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, found that the U.S. ranked most highly in aggregate across three main segments considered conducive to women's entrepreneurship.

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Those were: a) Women's advancement outcomes, such as women's labor force participation; b) Knowledge assets and financial access, including the ability to secure funding; and c) supporting entrepreneurial factors, like the cultural perception of women entrepreneurs.

Out of a total of 100 points, the U.S. scored 70.3, fueled by a "surge in women's entrepreneurial activity rate" and a boost to supporting conditions, such as the ease of doing business. New Zealand scored 70.2 thanks to strong governance and good financial support. Canada (69) ranked in third place, again due to good financial inclusion and sound cultural perceptions.

Rounding out the top 10 best places for women entrepreneurs were Israel (68.4), Ireland (67.7), Taiwan (66.2), Switzerland (65.8), Singapore (65.6), the U.K. (65.6), Poland (65.1) and the Philippines (65.1).

Meanwhile, Iran (42.3), Saudi Arabia (42), Algeria (39), Bangladesh (35.9) and Egypt (35.7) emerged at the bottom of the ranks due to factors such a limited education, poor support for SMEs and low financial inclusion.

Mastercard said the report, now in its third year, is intended to celebrate the markets making significant gains in advancing gender equality. However, the payments company added that there remains much room for improvement, even in the most developed markets.

"What is clear through this research is that gender inequality continues to persist across the world, although it manifests in different ways," said Julienne Loh, Mastercard's executive vice president of enterprise partnerships for Asia Pacific.

"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," she added.

The report took into account 58 markets, which together represent nearly 80% of the world's female labor force.

Mexico, Sweden and Saudi Arabia saw the biggest drop in women's entrepreneurial activity last year, while France, Taiwan and Indonesia recorded an uptick.

Interestingly, the report noted the greatest entrepreneurial gender balance could be found in Uganda, where women account for 38.2% of all entrepreneurs. The African nation was followed by Ghana (37.9%), Botswana (36%), the U.S. (35.1%) and New Zealand (31.8%).

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— Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Julienne Loh's name.

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