Women in politics scholar: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a statement on women in power

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on January 19, 2023, that he will soon resign from office. “I know what this job requires. And I know I don’t have enough in the tank to do it justice,” Ardern said.

Ardern was 37 when she was elected prime minister in 2017, and was the youngest female head of government to serve in any country. During her tenure, Ardern oversaw the country’s stringent COVID-19 response and also dealt with other crises such as Christchurch mosque shooting in 2019.

The prime minister also received unwanted attention that many observers – and Ardern herselfcalled sexist. It includes questions and comments about Ardern’s plans have a childas well as about her pregnancy later in the office. Ardern herself noticed him resignation speech that he is looking forward to spending more time with family once he leaves office in February.

He also told his little daughter, saying, “And so to Neve, Mom looks forward to being there when you start school this year.”

The Conversation US spoke to Virginia Tech political science scholar and female political experts Farida Jalalzai to provide context about the unique challenges facing Ardern and other women in positions of power.

1. What does Ardern’s resignation say about the experiences of women in top political jobs?

Women in leadership positions get asked some questions that men don’t. New Zealand is clearly a country with more women in political positions – Ardern is third female prime minister there. However, Ardern, for example, has faced questions about her appearance and personal life, such as his plans for marrying his partner.

Men usually receive less media coverage about their personal lives. People also think of places like New Zealand as countries where women have broken the glass ceiling, politically. But if this kind of sexist questioning and speculation is what’s happening at the highest levels in the most egalitarian societies like New Zealand, then of course it’s happening in all these other places where women face violence in politics, for example.

2. How does being a female political leader affect societies and the way they consider gender?

When women hold visible positions around the world, that sends a signal to the public that politics is more open and that women bring competence to the position. Some of my research shows that having women in these political roles has encouraged other women to become more involved in the political system and to believe that politics is more open to all. It also leads men to feel the same.

There is also power that comes with seeing the first woman rise to a highly visible leadership position. Although Hillary Clinton did not win the presidency in 2016, it certainly shaped people’s views on what is possible. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in next electionmany more women – and women of different backgrounds – have thrown their hats in the ring, even at the local and state level.

3. What are the dangers, if any, that women face in these high roles?

I wrote about, for example, the 2016 impeachment of the former president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. He faced blatant sexual assault and he is the victim of a witch hunt, where he ends up doing nothing that usually leads to corruption cases he faced. What we found in 2021 book I co-authored with Pedro dos Santos so after the removal of Rousseff, people’s beliefs that women can be competent leaders decreased in the short term, about a year.

4. What is the standard for a female leader with young children?

It is common for women to give birth in the executive office. Another head of state or government who is pregnant during his tenure was Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1990. There was a deliberate attempt by Bhutto’s opposition to schedule the election when she gave birth. But he cleverly lied about the due date so he could get rid of the opposition, because he knew they would try to make it impossible for him to campaign.

Ardern took it six weeks vacation for maternity leave. But cases of women with young children are few and far between because women tend to wait until they are older to become part of the political realm – and then take longer to reach the top.

5. Has there been a change in the past few years in how women in politics respond to their personal lives?

It’s becoming more common not to hide that personal part of yourself. In a way, female political leaders can control the narrative if they don’t hide the facts, or they can even make that a positive aspect of their governance.

Michelle Bachelet, who was the president of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, is a single mother. When she ran for office, she got a lot of support from single mothers and working mothers, who understood what it was like. would love to be in the same position.

But in general, women in positions of power should achieve balance in a way that you don’t want to come across as too difficult and aggressive, because they will be hit for that. If they are thought to be too soft and emotional person, they will be criticized for that too. There is no easy way around it.

Farida Jalalzai is Professor of Political Science; Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech.

This article was reprinted from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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