Lima in Peru came out worst when participants were asked if women had good access to healthcare, including control over reproductive health.
Abortion is illegal in Peru except to save the life of the mother and the teenage pregnancy rate is high.
Conflict-ridden Kinshasa, where growing violence has sparked fears of a repeat of civil wars two decades ago in which millions died, was the worst city in terms of female access to education, ownership of land and obtaining financial services.
At the other end of the scale, London was named the best city, buoyed by Britain's free and universal National Health Service, as well as coming top for economic opportunities.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said women were now leading at every level of society in London - in public service, the arts, politics, science and business - but there was more to do.
"The progress we're making as a city is not happening fast enough," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We must redouble our efforts to remove any barriers to women's success and to unlock their full potential."
Tokyo was ranked as the safest city in terms of sexual violence and harassment, though some women's rights campaigners said sexual violence remained a hidden problem.
Moscow outperformed New York on a range of measures, and was named the most female-friendly city judged solely on cultural practice, perhaps a nod to its avowedly egalitarian Soviet past. Urban jungles.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation's seventh annual perception poll was conducted as cities grow rapidly and the future looks increasingly urban, with 66 percent of people expected to live in urban areas by 2050, up from 54 percent currently.
The United Nations says the number of megacities has tripled since 1990 to 31, including six in China and five in India, and forecast this will rise to 41 by 2030. The poll was only conducted in the largest city in each country.
Campaigners said understanding and preparing for key trends in urbanisation in coming years is crucial to meet the U.N.'s latest set of global goals to end poverty and inequality by 2030. The poll was designed around U.N. targets.
Billy Cobbett, director of the Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction that promotes the role of cities in sustainable development, said the success of Agenda 2030 would be substantially dependent on the role played by women in cities of all sizes.
"The opportunity for women to play a full and leading role cannot be taken for granted, but requires reliable data, sound policy and decisive actions by city leaders," Cobbett told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The poll of 380 people was conducted online and by phone between June 1 and July 28 with 20 experts questioned in each of the 19 cities with a response rate of 93 percent. The results were based on a minimum of 15 experts in each city.
Respondents included aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, non-government organisation workers, policy-makers, development specialists and social commentators.