Less than two months ahead of New Zealand’s general election, the country’s opposition Labor party appointed Jacinda Ardern as its new leader, challenging the National Party's decade-long hold on power.
Ardern, 37, took over after Labor leader Andrew Little resigned. She became her struggling party's youngest leader and the second woman to ever lead the party.
Despite all her accomplishments, just seven hours into the job, she was quizzed during a interview on TV about whether she planned to have children.
“I’ve got a question and we’ve been discussing today whether or not I’m allowed to ask it. A lot of women in New Zealand feel like they have to make a choice between having babies and having a career or continuing their career … so is that a decision you feel you have to make or that you feel you’ve already made?” asked co-host Jesse Mulligan.
Adern replied, “I have no problem with you asking me that question because I have been very open about discussing that dilemma because I think probably lots of women face it.”
The Labor leader has been very vocal about being cautious of taking senior leadership because of the burden and stress it would place on her home life and family.
In a second interview, just hours after the first one, Adern was once again pushed on the subject — and this time in an extremely sexist way. Mark Richardson, co-host of “The AM Show,” said New Zealanders had the right to know when choosing a prime minister whether that person might take maternity leave.
“If you are the employer of a company you need to know that type of thing from the woman you are employing… the question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?” asked Richardson.
The leader replied, “I decided to talk about it, it was my choice, so that means I am happy to keep responding to those questions. It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is unacceptable, it is unacceptable.”
“It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities,” she further added.
The series of similar questions and repeated push on the subject sparked an outrage and initiated a debate on sexism. Many argued that male politicians are rarely asked about their parenthood plans and are also not questioned about how they will balance their work and family life.
Just watched Mark Richardson show his rage, his sexism, his lack of self-awareness. It's not cricket, dude. https://t.co/Qig5hvB2xU— Rachel Stewart (@RFStew) August 1, 2017
let's be v clear here: neither employer nor public has any "right" to know if person plans to have children so stfu https://t.co/StS3P41ofH— di frances (@di_f_w) August 1, 2017
If you're wondering why the reaction to Jacinda Ardern baby q, it's b/c NZ women have been reminded they're baby makers first and foremost— Frances Cook (@FrancesCook) August 1, 2017
Spotlight: Reuters, Charlotte Greenfield