Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

The real reason it’s unacceptable for Jacinda Ardern to be pregnant

Last week saw the announcement that Jacinda Arden and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting their first child, due in June. There was instantly a social media furore of commentary about this. The negative comments I read seemed to fall into 3 main camps:

  1. She must have been trying to get pregnant when she ran for Prime Minister and didn’t tell anyone, and that’s not right
  2. She only raised the paid parental leave provisions because she was trying to get pregnant and that’s not right
  3. She’s not going to be able to run a country while pregnant or while she has a newborn baby

The thing is that none of these comments reveal the real reason why it’s unacceptable for Jacinda Arden to be pregnant.

And the real reason is this:

It clashes with most older men’s view of a woman’s role.

Over the years when I’ve run our Management Bites or Employment Law workshop and we get to talking about parental leave – almost always the men in the room in their 50’s and early 60’s tell me that they should be able to ask if a woman is going to get pregnant. They argue that if a women is going to get pregnant, they shouldn’t have to hire them because it’s disruptive to their team.  They ask why should women get paid to have time off to have a baby? Why should they be able to disrupt a workplace and have a manager have to find someone to cover their role? Why? Why? Why?

It’s not okay to argue those things anymore.

Because gents, the world has changed.

Your views are no longer acceptable.

I know that this is hard to hear.

But for many, many years women’s views on equality, sexual abuse and our place in the world have been unacceptable. Minorities wanting equal rights – those views have been unacceptable. Now the tide has turned and you will need to learn to cope, as women and minorities have.

I saw this tweet this morning and think it sums it up nicely:



In the US that guy from the Apprentice is trying to hold onto those old men world views and it’s not going well for him. In New Zealand we are breaking them apart and showing how it’s done! Congratulations to Jacinda and Clarke. Thank you for finally bringing us into the 21st century.


Angela Atkins is People and Learning Director for Elephant Group NZ and Elephant Group UK – and also developed the Management Bites training programme. She is best-selling author of the bites series of books and is passionate about helping HR and managers create better businesses. You can follow her on Facebook  Angela splits her time between New Zealand, the UK, California and Hawaii.


10 comments on “The real reason it’s unacceptable for Jacinda Ardern to be pregnant

  1. sloppynez
    January 28, 2018

    The world has changed, your views are no longer acceptable. I agree with your view entirely but it would be nice to see someone like you who has obviously thought a lot about this why each of those old men statements you suggested are wrong so people like me can say these things when such men raise these views at the water cooler

    • angelaatkins
      January 29, 2018

      Hi – to me the difference comes when what society views as acceptable changes. Slavery used to be acceptable, child labour used to be acceptable, smacking your children when they were naughty used to be acceptable, smoking at work used to be acceptable, and women having to leave the workplace when they had children was acceptable. Now those things are not acceptable anymore. It’s a hard conversation to have with people who still have views which society now consider not okay…… thank you for raising a really interesting point.

  2. debbie murphy
    January 30, 2018

    Excellent, I totally and utterly agree! The cheese has been moved for many people over the past few years … this is a very good thing. Thanks for your article – especially the Welcome to 2018 quote! Lol

    • angelaatkins
      February 1, 2018

      Thanks Debbie – that is one of my favourite tweets of all time now!!

  3. JRT
    January 30, 2018

    I feel it’s acceptable for Jacinda to be pregnant, and that it’s acceptable for any other woman with the means to raise a child to be pregnant, whenever it is they end up pregnant. I also feel this timing is potentially detrimental to both the baby & the nation. I’m pretty sure that leading the nation is one of the most demanding/taxing and important roles in NZ, and I’m also pretty sure that pregnancy & childbirth is one of the most physically/emotionally taxing processes a human can go through, so doing them at the same time surely comes at a cost to both? The empowering example she is setting is inspiring, but surely there’s also a cost to the nation and/or baby that doesn’t need to exist?

    • angelaatkins
      February 1, 2018

      Hi JRT – I understand your views. However there are many life events that are traumatic both physically and mentally. Running marathons, suffering the death of a family member, moving house, going through a divorce, suffering from depression. People still continue to work while going through these events and no-one says it’s not acceptable. That is my personal view on this.

  4. Patricia Reilly
    January 31, 2018

    So true. Babies and having babies are part of life and are part of good business. Remember ‘old men’ without new consumers there is no new business.

  5. Ray Parker (@RayfromtheK)
    February 2, 2018

    may well be I have an eclectic circle of female friends but I could easily see your heading as… “because ladies.. times have changed..!” where is the love.. ladies..?
    elephant in the room..

    • angelaatkins
      February 3, 2018

      Hi Ray – you do raise a good point. There are also many women who don’t think women can have children and a career. I’ve seen that women can be very good at undermining ourselves and each other, rather than supporting each other. Where is the love indeed? (and now I’ll be singing that for the rest of the day…)

  6. Annie Inwood
    February 3, 2018

    I love this post! It is so very true.

    Sadly while we New Zealand women have had the right to vote as equals with New Zealand men for more than 134 years, we as women do not have the right to reproduce regardless of what our position is in society. It is time for our society to grow up and accept that women have to be treated equally in every aspect of life. After all, if a working man can now take extended parental leave to help raise their children, why shouldn’t our Prime Minister have the right to have children while in office. I can’t help reflecting that this is all about a primitive male response towards women. A response of jealousy and insecurity because women can give birth to a human being while arguably there’s no creation that men have ever been able to produce which can top that incredible miracle called childbirth.

    It’s time the subjugation stopped.

    Thank you Jacinda Ardern for taking us one step closer to the egalitarian society we all fully deserve here in this beautiful and precious country we call Aotearoa New Zealand.

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2018 by in culture, Leadership and tagged , .
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