“The day when a female leader becomes so commonplace that it doesn’t merit comment — that will be the day when everything really will have changed.”
Jacinda Ardern, 2017
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister, is one of the most powerful women in the world right now. A face for New Zealand and for women around the globe, Ardern proved those wrong who thought women could not break the glass ceiling in politics. She is currently one of twelve women worldwide who are head of a government– females only make up 7% of all heads of government right now. With powerful, influential women like Jacinda Ardern, these numbers could rise in our lifetime. Ardern believes that the world should see more female representation in office to fight issues that women face right now, such as poverty, reproductive health, lack of education, gender equality, violence and abuse, pay inequality, and more.
Typically, history has shown that men have had the largest voice in politics; however, Ardern is actively showing how a break from tradition can be a positive thing. For instance, after the March 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks, Ardern began to implement important changes in New Zealand’s gun laws. She’s offered financial help to the survivors, promised to cover funeral costs of various victims of the attack, and has been providing support for the families of the victims and all of New Zealand.
She has also been debunking sexist stereotypes and has sent a clear message that sexism will not be tolerated in office. When, in 2017, just seven hours into office, a host asked Ardern whether or not she plans to have children, she answered “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is a women’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.”
Just one year later, she challenged sexist stereotypes by becoming the first world leader in thirty years to give birth while in office. She has set an example that women do not need to choose between work and motherhood if they don’t want to: “I’m just pregnant, not incapacitated. Like everyone else who has found themselves pregnant before, I’m just keeping on going.”
Ardern also, in 2018 at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, wore a traditional Māori cloak which signifies power, while visibly pregnant. This monumental statement sent a message of female empowerment to the entire world. Jacinda Ardern is also unmarried, and her partner, Clarke Gayford, is staying home to take care of their child full-time while Ardern works, discrediting the stereotype that women have to give up their careers after becoming mothers, and that women are the ones that need to stay home with the children. Just days after Ardern gave birth, Gayford posted photos on social media of Ardern working, proving that women can go above and beyond, and that females are able to balance work and motherhood. Also, in September of 2018, she broke more sexist stereotypes by historically bringing her child to the United Nations general assembly meeting. No one had ever done this before. She gave us a glimpse into the life of a female politician and showed the world that it is possible to “have it all.” Ardern has been open about the difficulties and challenges of having a full-time job and also being a full-time mother. She hopes that one day, this will be a norm for women wanting to balance work and motherhood.
Ardern has a goal of ensuring that half of the members in her party’s parliament are women, meaning that a more diverse pool of politicians will be fighting for issues affecting women, and other topics. Jacinda Ardern proves a positive break from tradition, as the world has historically seen mostly men leading in politics, and in just her two years in office so far, she has already empowered so many women around the world and broken so many unfair assumptions and stereotypes against women. The world will never be fairly ruled if only half the population is represented.
Electing women to public office is extremely important, and luckily we have amazing women like Jacinda Ardern changing the world.
art by: Sarah de Surville