Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has announced her pregnancy on Jan. 19. The exciting news has already sparked a substantial reaction from the international public and comes with a powerful message about equality and women in the workplace.
Out of 40 Prime Ministers in New Zealand, Ardern is the third female to take office. However, this isn’t the only empowering success she gets to claim. Ardern is New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister since the 19th century, at 37. Now, with the announcement of her pregnancy, Ardern will be the second world leader to be expecting while in office since 1990. Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was the first—she gave birth in 1990.
Ardern took to social media to share the news.
A few hours after becoming Prime Minister, Ardern was asked by television hosts about her plans surrounding pregnancy. Her response was a truth that has yet to be applied as a social norm in the workplace, “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. 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.”
Acknowledging the many women who continue to be mothers and prosper in the workplace, Ardern said in a conference on Friday,
“I am not the first woman to multitask. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby. I know these are special circumstances but there will be many women who will have done this well before I have. We are going to make this work and New Zealand is going to help us raise our first child.”
Ardern’s path to pregnancy was not an easy one. She recalls the struggles, “been clear we wanted to be parents but had been told we would need help for that to happen.” Six days before becoming the elected Prime Minister, Ardern discovered she was pregnant. However, she kept it private until her announcement this week.
The national support has delightfully been overflowing, as well as support from fellow female leaders.
Her husband being a stay-at-home dad is also an important part of the news. Michelle Duff reminds us that there is even more to take from this announcement, “It’s exciting because her partner Clarke Gayford will be the primary caregiver, hopefully opening up a national conversation about how entirely possible it should be for men to take more paternal leave, and challenging stereotypical and outdated ideas around masculinity. It shows little boys there are other ways of being men, too.”
Ardern will be taking a six-week maternity leave after giving birth. By July, New Zealanders will be allowed to take 22 weeks of paternal leave and 26 weeks by 2020 because of the Labour Party, spearheaded by Ardern. During this time, deputy prime minister, Winston Peters, will stand in Ardern’s place.
To the skeptics and critics wondering how Ardern will be able to balance work and being a mother, Ardern says, “None of them detected I had pretty bad morning sickness for three months of establishing the government.” When asked how she managed, Ardern replied simply and powerfully, “It’s what ladies do.” She did worry what others would think of her eating habits while pregnant but came to the realization that “people thought I was just a woman of odd habits.”
Ardern’s pregnancy while being Prime Minister of New Zealand is an important message to the world about the strength and powerful abilities of women. A woman is in full ownership of her body and her choices regarding motherhood lie completely with her. Having a job should not prevent a woman from having a family. She should not have to choose between motherhood and a career. As 2018 has begun, let this be a year that continues our journey into gender equality and female empowerment. Ardern’s pregnancy will help showcase the voices of working mothers, their struggles, and triumphs- as the issues faced by women in the workplace and lack of gender equality remains a significant issue. For years, women have juggled motherhood with other aspects of their lives, proving time and time again their indisputable vitality. While celebrating this wonderful news for Ardern and her husband, Gayford, remember to appreciate the hardships that workplace discrimination bring to a mother, the challenges that can come with conquering the balance of work and motherhood and have these discussions regarding gender equality in the workplace to acknowledge said issues.