June 20, 2018

Mai Chen: Jacinda Ardern is proof women’s baby plans aren’t an issue


Newshub, 17 June 2018

A top lawyer says attitudes towards women in pregnancy are changing, largely thanks to Jacinda Ardern.

Ms Ardern is due to give birth this weekend, after spending the entirety of her Prime Ministership to date pregnant with her first child.

Mai Chen of firm Chen Palmer told Newshub Ms Ardern’s pregnancy has challenged the stereotype women have to look perfect, have a great figure and stomp around in high heels.

“People said, ‘Oh look she’s only in the role because she’s so gorgeous and thin.’ No, actually she’s pregnant and she’s not thin. I love the fact she’s out there and she’s had to adapt her wardrobe and she’s wearing flat shoes.”

Ms Chen hid her own pregnancy for as long as she could in 2003, when she says attitudes were very different.

“It was interesting. It confirmed the fact that it was the right thing to do, to hide it. I had calls from clients saying, ‘I just heard from a competitor that you’re pregnant and you’re going to leave work and have three more – do I need to find another lawyer?’ And I just said, ‘No, no.’”

Ms Ardern’s clash with The AM Show co-host Mark Richardson made headlines internationally last year after he argued the country had a right to know what her baby plans are. This was before she became Prime Minister, and before she was pregnant.

Ms Ardern told him it was “totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace”.

Ms Chen says the presumption in the past was always that the mother would be the primary carer – in her case it was her husband.

Ms Ardern’s partner, fishing TV show host Clarke Gayford, will be a stay-at-home dad. The Prime Minister is expecting to take only six weeks off, leaving Winston Peters in charge.

Ms Chen hopes the experience will bolster support for the extension of paid parental leave, and says having a pregnant Prime Minister has put a normally invisible situation out there in the public sphere.

“In having her continuing to carry out the job competently and diligently really challenges the fact this is an issue. It’s not an issue, and it’s great that we don’t have to hide it…

“Having a Prime Minister who is pregnant really has forced us to accelerate and adapt to a faster pace of evolution on this really important issue. Because frankly, how else did we all get here?”

Ms Ardern told Newshub Nation earlier this week she is “pretty much” ready to become a mother.


— Newshub