By Hannah Schenker
Do you think that in 2017, in New Zealand, a woman should still expect to be questioned about her baby plans when stepping into a leadership role? No! Yet this is exactly what happened to new Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, just hours into her new political role as Labour Party leader. Sexism is alive and well, down under.
On Tuesday, Ardern became the leader of the Labour Party, after previous leader Andrew Little stepped down in the lead up to the election, after polls showing a decline in the party’s popularity. Literally only hours into her new job, Ardern was being questioned by reporters about her family plans at her first press conference. That night, appearing on TV3’s The Project, Ardern was asked by host Jesse Mulligan whether she felt she had to make a decision between continuing to progress her career or having babies. She took it in her stride and admitted that yes, that is an issue that many women face, but that she – like any mother juggling many responsibilities – would just have to take everything as it comes and make that life work.
Following on from this ridiculousness, during an interview with New Zealand’s “The AM Show” on Wednesday, radio host Mark Richardson defended previous reporters’ inquiries into her future plans to have children, insisting that employers have a right to know.
“I think this is a legitimate question for New Zealand, because she could be the prime minister running this country,” he said. “She has our best interests at heart, so we need to know these things. If you’re an employer of a company, you need to know that type of thing from the woman that you employ, because legally, you have to give them maternity leave.”
Her response? While admitting that she had agreed to field these questions, she then put him rightly in his place:
“For other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. That is unacceptable in 2017. It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have got opportunities,” she said.
She went on to question whether he would ask the same of any male politician – and we all know the answer to that question.
It seems that women are still, in 2017, expected to view motherhood as their primary role, and that it is also something up for public discussion. What women do with their uteruses is completely up to them and should have no place in a work-related discourse. The question they should ask, IF she ever decides to have a child, is “How can we support you to continue as Labour Party leader?”