Just two days into her job as New Zealand’s new Labour Party leader, Jacinda Ardern has fielded multiple questions about her future pregnancy plans. When a male radio host insisted Wednesday that such questions are fair game, she took a stand for all women’s right to privacy on the subject.
Ardern, 37, became the party’s youngest ever leader on Tuesday local time after previous head Andrew Little resigned after polls showed the party’s popularity declining. During an interview with New Zealand’s “The AM Show” on Wednesday, radio host Mark Richardson defended past reporters’ inquiries into her future plans to have children.
“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.”
Ardern is up for the prime minister role in a Sept. 23 election that’s just weeks away.
“The question is,” Richardson asked, “is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?”
“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.”
While Ardern said earlier in the interview that she had personally chosen to be open about her pregnancy plans, she put her foot down at Richardson’s insistence that all women must disclose that information.
“For other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace,” she said.
“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 added.
Richardson pushed back, saying such questions don’t necessarily have any bearing on whether an employer will hire a woman. Ardern shot that down too.
“If you’re asking the question at the time you’re making a decision around employment, you’re implying it’s going to have an impact as to whether you choose to employ that person or not,” she said, then asked him, “Would you ask a man if they are likely to have kids in the future?”
Richardson said he would, but fellow “AM Show” host Duncan Garner chimed in to say that he personally had never asked a male political leader about that in his 20 years of reporting.