Politicians are used to media interest in their personal lives, but for Jacinda Ardern, new leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party, the attention has almost exclusively focused on whether or not she is going to have children — leading many to protest at how female politicians are treated differently to their male counterparts.
Since being announced as the new leader of New Zealand’s main opposition party Tuesday, Ardern has faced multiple questions about taking possible maternity leave and if so, whether it could impact her ability to carry out her duties as party leader – or possibly as prime minister.
Within seven hours of replacing Andrew Little as leader of the struggling Labour Party, Ardern was asked by Jesse Mulligan, host of TV3’s The Project, if she felt she had to make a decision between continuing to focus on her career or having a family. The 37-year-old politician, who has been a member of parliament since 2008, took the question in her stride, saying she didn’t have a problem with the question and that she had “been really open about that dilemma.”
Others weren’t so accepting of Mulligan’s line of questioning:
On Wednesday morning, the subject wasn’t going away, but Ardern’s attitude began to harden. When radio host Mark Richardson said that New Zealanders had the right to know when choosing a prime minister whether that person might take maternity leave, Ardern responded by pointing her finger at the host and saying: “For other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace.”
Ardern added that a person having children “should not predetermine whether or not they get the job.”
Earlier this year Arden spoke about her wish to have a family while in office: “I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, but I think they’re difficult.”