By Claire Zillman
August 3, 2017

On Tuesday, 37-year-old MP Jacinda Ardern was elected the new leader of New Zealand’s Labour opposition party, becoming the youngest person and the second-ever woman to hold the role.

Yet mere hours into her tenure in the high-profile job, the questions asked of her focused not on an upcoming general election, but on her personal plans to become a mother.

Initially, Ardern—who doesn’t have children but has expressed a desire for them—entertained a TV host’s query about having to choose between “having babies and having a career” since she’d discussed the topic before.

“[M]y position is no different to the woman who works three jobs, or who might be in a position where they are juggling lots of responsibilities,” she said.

But her response was more heated, when—for second time in as many days—she was asked about her future childbearing plans.

“If you are the employer of a company you need to know that type of thing from the woman you are employing… the question is, is it okay for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?” another host asked yesterday.

Ardern unloaded:

“I elected to talk about it, it was my choice … but for other women it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say a woman 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 they should have a job or be given job opportunities.”

Commentators in New Zealand decried the line of questioning as sexist. As Stuff.co.nz‘s Kylie Klein Nixon put it: “[New Zealand PM] Bill English literally has six kids, and no one cares.”

Besides being irrelevant to Ardern’s job qualifications, the questions about her future childbearing reveal a stark double standard, since female politicians without children are judged just as harshly for it.

Australia’s former PM Julia Gillard was regularly criticized for not having children, with a conservative senator once saying she was “deliberately barren.”

During the race to replace former U.K. PM David Cameron, former Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom appeared to suggest she was more qualified to become prime minister than Theresa May because she has children—and May doesn’t. “Genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country,” Leadsom said in an interview.

For women who do end up having kids, there are—of course—physical demands that only apply to women. But two female politicians recently proved that those responsibilities aren’t incompatible with leadership either.

MP Unnur Bra Konradsdottir of Iceland and former Australian Senator Larissa Waters both breastfed while delivering speeches in their respective parliaments. Afterward, Konradsdottir downplayed her multitasking.

“It’s like any job,” she told Agence France-Presse, “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

 

@clairezillman


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

In shipshape?
Raya al-Hassan, Lebanon’s former finance minister, is the general manager of a project to launch a special economic zone adjacent to Tripoli’s port. The hope is that it’ll make Tripoli a hub for Syria’s vast post-civil war reconstruction needs and provide jobs to Lebanese residents who are now competing for work with impoverished Syrian refugees. 
NPR
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A victory for victims
Jordan’s parliament on Tuesday voted to abolish a measure that lets rapists avoid prosecution if they marry their victims and stay with them for at least three years. The provision is seen by some as a way to protect women’s “honor,” but opponents argue it violates basic human rights and disregards the criminal nature of rape. Jordan’s senate and King Abdullah II must still approve the decision. Last week, Tunisian politicians abolished a similar clause while recognizing domestic violence as a punishable crime. 
Al Jazeera
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All in the family
French President Emmanuel Macron is being called a hypocrite after banning MPs from employing their family members. Yet Macron is himself in the process of carving out a still-unnamed role for his wife Brigitte. It’s common for France’s first lady to have an informal role, but Brigitte will be the first to be an official advisor.
Quartz

THE AMERICAS

Craving change
Mondelez International CEO and chairman Irene Rosenfeld announced yesterday that she’s stepping down as chief executive in November. Fortune‘s Beth Kowitt has the scoop on her departure and her legacy at the snack giant.
Fortune
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Maybe she’s born with it?
The Atlantic takes on the question of why women sometimes turn on one another at work. Is the tendency biologically ingrained or is ‘bitchiness’ a by-product of the modern workplace?
Atlantic
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Recruiting ROI
Fortune‘s Valentina Zarya talked exclusively with Facebook’s VP of People Lori Goler about how the social media giant managed to recruit an engineering class that’s 27% female. “What you see in our numbers is a multi-year investment starting to pay off,” Goler said. “You’re not seeing a bunch of women we’ve just met for the first time.” Rather, it’s the result of years of “relationship-building, training, and investment.”
Fortune

ASIA-PACIFIC

Hospitality, for her
Japan’s “capsule” hotels started out catering to working, middle-aged men, but trends are shifting and two firms in Tokyo are opening capsule facilities that offer sleeping pods and showers to women only. “Now that society is seeing more working women, we thought this kind of 24-hour facility where they can come in anytime would be a good service,” says Keisuke Yui, founder of hotel operator Nine Hours Inc.
Japan Times
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A trial in Thailand
Thailand’s former PM Yingluck Shinawatra, ousted in a May 2014 coup, is awaiting a verdict in a trial on charges that she acted dishonestly in a multi-billion dollar rice subsidiary scheme that backfired and cost Thailand $8 billion. Yingluck, who remains a figurehead of Thailand’s populist movement, says the scheme benefitted average Thais and that she’s a victim of political persecution. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
Reuters

IN BRIEF

‘Wonder Woman’ saves Time Warner’s bottom line
Fortune
A big win for Afghan women’s wheelchair hoopsters
NPR
Rihanna is sponsoring a bike-share program so girls in Malawi can go to school
The Cut
In Trump’s White House, the women are the survivors
Politico

PARTING WORDS

"I hoped we’d had our fill of quick-and-easy, and there was an appetite for the real thing."
- —Cookbook editor Judith Jones, on pushing for the publication of Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking.' Jones, who also saved the English-language 'Diary of Anne Frank' from the reject pile, died yesterday at age 93.

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