New Zealand Politician Nails Her Response To A Question That Women Are Always Asked — And Men Never Are

"It is totally unacceptable in 2017."

Just hours after Jacinda Ardern was elected the new leader of New Zealand's Labour Party on Tuesday, she was already being asked questions about her plans for children — and used it as an opportunity to defend women in the workplace.

During an interview on the television program The Project, host Jesse Mulligan asked a question he admitted some of his colleagues didn't think he should raise. "A lot of women in New Zealand feel they have to make a choice between having babies and having a career," he said. "Is that a choice that you feel you have to make or already made?"

Ardern, who has no children, said she had "no problem" answering that question, explaining, "I've been really open about that dilemma, because I think probably a lot of women face it. And for me, my position is no different to the woman who works three jobs or who might be in a position where they're juggling lots of responsibilities."

Some on social media, however, objected to Mulligan's question, pointing out that it's rarely asked of men

The topic of motherhood — and the acceptability of such questions — continued into Wednesday morning, when Ardern appeared on The AM Show. Before the three hosts welcomed her, they discussed the subject among themselves. While Amanda Gillies shared her belief that the question was inappropriate, co-host Mark Richardson said he believed it was a "legitimate question," because Ardern could become the next prime minister in September's election.

"If you're an employer of a company, you need to know that type of thing from the women that you're employing," he argued, as Gillies objected. "Because legally, you have to give them maternity leave. So therefore, the question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?"

Ardern addressed the issue, and Richardson's comments, during the subsequent interview. "I decided to talk about it. It was my choice, so that means I'm happy to keep responding to those questions," she said, adding that she didn't find it an inappropriate question for herself personally, "because I opened myself up to it."

However, she did have a problem with the argument that employers should ask women about their plans for children. "You," she said sternly, pointing at Richardson. "For other women, 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. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or if they have job opportunities."

Ardern and Richardson briefly debated the issue back and forth, and when she asked if he would ever ask such a question of a man, Richardson answered that he would. That's when co-host Duncan Garner jumped in to admit, "I have never asked a male political leader, in 20 years of asking politicians that question."

The exchange has since made headlines in New Zealand and overseas, with many speaking out against Richardson and challenging his claim that the same would be asked of men.

Kylie Klein Nixon penned an op-ed for the site, writing, "Women are damned if we do, damned if we don't, damned if we're not 100 per cent sure, damned if we have them and want to go back to work, damned if we have them and then decide we don't want to go back to work. We're just damned, up and down."

New Zealand's Human Rights Commission even weighed in on Twitter (above), making it clear that employers should "avoid questions relating to pregnancy, proposed pregnancy, contraception or family planning, or parenthood."

(H/T: Mashable)


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