Last year, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern challenged a television host over whether it was acceptable for an employer to ask a woman whether she planned on having a child before deciding to hire them (RadioLive). Two months later, amid coalition talks to form a new government, she discovered she was pregnant herself (Stuff).
Ardern, who became the world’s youngest female leader at 37 when she took office in October, is expecting her first child in June.
At a press conference outside her home, Ardern stood alongside her partner Clarke Gayford. Ardern said she would take six weeks off following her child’s birth, when Winston Peters would take on the role of acting prime minister. Gayford would stay at home and be the baby’s primary caregiver. On Twitter, Ardern said Gayford would be “first man of fishing” and “stay at home dad.” Gayford is the host of a popular television show Fish of the Day.
We thought 2017 was a big year! This year we’ll join the many parents who wear two hats. I’ll be PM & a mum while Clarke will be “first man of fishing” & stay at home dad. There will be lots of questions (I can assure you we have a plan all ready to go!)
Ardern found an international following after she challenged a male television host over whether it was acceptable to ask a woman about their plans for a family when choosing whether or not to employ them (Radio Live).
“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,” she told former New Zealand cricketer Mark Richardson on the AM Show. (Guardian)
Former New Zealand prime minster Helen Clark tweeted her congratulations saying “every woman should have the choice of combining family and career.”
Wishing @jacindaardern & @NZClarke all the best as they expect their 1st child in June: a super busy year coming up & much to look forward to. Every #woman should have the choice of combining family & career. https://t.co/Ma6B6OGXJe
Ardern has been a staunch supporter of increasing paid parental leave. The government announced in November that they would increase paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks by July 1, 2018, and 26 weeks by July 1, 2020 (New Zealand Herald).
However, because Ardern is an elected official she is ineligible to benefit from the new law. Gayford confirmed he would not use it either (Newshub).
In a statement Ardern said that the pregnancy was unexpected but exciting as the couple were not sure if it was possible.
She told media that she was “not the first woman to multitask … There are plenty of women who carved a path… to be able to make it possible.”
Jacinda Ardern was the deputy of a failing party when she was handed the reins to Labour, only 54 days before New Zealand’s general election (Stuff).
Twitter user Richard Hills preempted criticism from some corners who might suggest that motherhood and politics could not mix.
Jacinda had an hour to decide to be leader. 54 days to campaign. Her Grandma died 3 days b4 the election. Found out she was pregnant during coalition discussions. Her cat got run over on her first day of parliament. She kept calm and carried on. Owning her role.
Ardern is the first female leader in New Zealand to have a child in office, and only the second in the modern era throughout the world. Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was first, back in 1990. (Los Angeles Times)