The gender equality script could not have been written any better – Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford have announced they are expecting a baby, just three months after Ardern’s appointment as Prime Minister elect.
And as the news makes headlines around the globe, there is plenty to smile about.
Firstly, we should not question, but instead embrace the fact that Ardern was aware of her pregnancy during the time of her appointment as Prime Minister elect.
That in itself sends a powerful message: no job is too important to put your family ambitions on hold, and neither should women have to take a step back in preparation for baby.
And really, what was the counter option for Ardern? To step down from her role as Leader of the Opposition because she was hoping to have a baby? Or to declare to the New Zealand public that this was the case?
What message would that have sent?
She has faced what many women face as they consider starting a family. Do I go for that promotion? Should I hold back in case I get pregnant?
Ardern is a walking statement that reads ‘career AND family’. Because both can be done, and both will be done. And New Zealand needs this more than ever – we have too few women in senior roles, and we have too few women in senior roles who are parents.
Secondly, Clarke Gayford will be the main caregiver. Let’s be clear – gender equality is not about reversing the roles of men and women, but about equalising them. In taking up this position, however, Gayford will be a welcomed role model that will likely influence mindsets on the parenting role of dads. Gender equality relies on society accepting and enabling dads as caregivers in much the same way as mothers. This can only be a win for gender equality.
Within this, however, we must also consider that their situation, as Ardern herself acknowledged, is a privileged one. Everyone’s situation is different, and not everyone has the option to have a stay at home parent. Neither should we benchmark women against Ardern’s ability to resume her demanding job weeks after the birth of her baby. Instead there is a need for men and women to be better supported in the workplace to fulfil their dual role, and to thrive in their career alongside their caregiving responsibilities.
And finally, can you imagine a smarter response to those hideous questions asked of Ardern (yes, we all know the ones), upon her appointment as Leader of the Opposition?
What a blinder!
Ardern has become a role model – unlike any other – for women and girls in New Zealand, as well as globally. After a stagnant spell for gender equality, she is a breath of fresh air who, alone, is capable of instigating the gender step-change our country desperately needs. We should embrace it, and everything it represents for the people of New Zealand – our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and nieces – as well as our dads, brothers, husbands, sons and nephews.
We would not question a soon-to-be dad about their ability to fulfil a role, and neither should we question a soon-to-be mum. Justin Trudeau, for example, entered office as a father of three young children – the youngest just a year old. What a win it would be if we could make this news business as usual for women as well.
Our Prime Minister’s pregnancy is to be celebrated. Can she do this? Hell, yes! And our country will be better for it.
Photo credit: Jacinda Ardern Instagram account 20/1/18.
CareerMum offers fresh, New Zealand focused perspectives on the topic of gender equality, and exists to improve the working landscape for career mums. www.careermum.co.nz
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