‘Unacceptable’: New Zealand’s Labour leader asked about baby plans seven hours into job

Anger after Jacinda Ardern is made to field questions about whether she might end up taking maternity leave in office

New Zealands new Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern, has said it is unacceptable that females face questions in the workplace over their motherhood plans after she was asked on Tv about whether she wants to have children.

Ardern, 37, was unanimously elected as leader of the party on Tuesday after Andrew Little stepped down less than two months before the election is due to be held. Little resigned quoting three consecutive polls depicting support for the opposition party at a disastrous 23 -2 4% the lowest approval rating in nearly 20 years.

On Tuesday night, seven hours into her new job, Ardern appeared on Tv indicate The Project and was asked by co-host Jesse Mulligan whether she planned to have children.

Ive got a question and weve been discussing today whether or not Im allowed to ask it, told Mulligan glancing at his female co-host Kanoa Lloyd, who laughed uncomfortably and rolled her eyes.

A lot of women in New Zealand feel like they have to make a selection between having babies and having a career or continuing their career so is that a decision you feel you have to construct or that you feel youve already attained?

In the past Ardern, merely the second woman to lead New Zealand Labour, has spoken candidly about being wary of taking on senior leadership roles, including the prime ministership, because of the stres it can place on family and home life.

Ardern reacted politely: I have no problem with you asking me that question because I have been very open about discussing that dilemma because I think likely lots of women face it. Ardern added that she did not consider her dilemma as any different from other New Zealand women juggling multiple priorities and responsibilities.

On Wednesday morning, however, the opposition leader bristled at The AM Shows co-host Mark Richardson after he said New Zealanders had a right to know whether there was a possibility their potential prime minister 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 utilizing the issues to is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office? Richardson asked.

Ardern, visibly angry, defended the interests of New Zealand women to keep their child-bearing schemes private from their employer, a position upheld by the Human Rights Act of 1993, which states it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a current or potential employee on the grounds of being pregnant or wanting to have children in the future.

I decided to talk about it, it was my selection, so that entails I am happy to keep responding to those questions, said Ardern, who has in the past expressed the desire to have a family.

But, you, she told, turning her chair to face Richardson and pointing her thumb directly at him, It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that topic in the workplace, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable. AM co-host Amanda Gillies praised as Ardern went on: It is a womens decision about when they choose to have children and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a task or have job opportunities.

The exchange and recurred questioning of Ardern over her plans for children sparked debate within New Zealand and accusations of sexism.

WomenAotearoaNZ (@ WeavingHouse)

#NZ Such questions are a prejudice against Women& prove misogynistic –
unacceptable. https :// t.co/ J02YNSwQHZ

August 1, 2017

Many commentators noted that young male political leaders were never asked by the media about how they would balance a political and family life, though former “ministers ” Helen Clark often was.

Just watched Mark Richardson depict his rage, his sexism, his lack of self-awareness, tweeted columnist Rachel Stewart.

Its not cricket, dude.

If youre wondering why the reaction to Jacinda Ardern baby q, its b/ c NZ females have been reminded theyre newborn manufacturers first and foremost, tweeted journalist Frances Cook.

Frances Cook (@ FrancesCook)

If you’re wondering why the reaction to Jacinda Ardern newborn q, it’s b/ c NZ females have been reminded they’re baby makers first and foremost

August 1, 2017

Others were similarly unimpressed, calling the issues to faced by Ardern misogynistic.

di frances (@ di_f_w)

let’s be v clear here: neither employer nor public has any “right” to know if person plans to have infants so stfu https :// t.co/ StS3P 41 ofH

August 1, 2017

Equal employment opportunities commissioner Dr Jackie Blue also weighed in on the matter, in a frank opinion piece for the Spinoff website.

Male hosts of two TV3 proves made it very clear to their audiences that they would desperately like to know what Jacindas intentions for her womb were, wrote Blue.

Quite frankly, whether a woman intends on having children or not, is none of their bloody business. Oh, and by the way, its illegal to ask those questions.

In an sentiment piece for the website Stuff.co.nz titled No, we dont need to hear about Jacinda Arderns newborn plans ever, Kylie Klein Nixon wrote of the “ministers “: Bill English literally has six kids, and no one cares.

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