Jacinda Ardern discovered she was pregnant only six days away from being announced as New Zealand's Prime Minister on October 19, 2017.
At first she and partner Clarke Gayford chose to keep it quiet but since announcing her pregnancy the 37-year-old has received a mixed response with some feeling ''betrayed'' by the announcement, accusing her of being ''selfish'' for putting her needs before her country and that she chose to have her baby at the wrong time and should have ''waited'' until she wasn't prime minister.
Others have suggested that due to the pregnancy she will not be ''fit for purpose'' and cannot possibly handle being prime minister as well as being pregnant. Mainly because you know...''baby brain''?
Ardern's situation shows the impossible expectations that are placed on women in public life. On the one hand you are vilified if you 'selfishly' choose to have children and are vilified for 'selfishly' choosing not to have them.
Julia Gillard was mercilessly criticised by her decision to remain childless by Tony Abbott, Mark Latham and George Brandis. All of them arguing that she could not possibly understand the average Australian woman by her decision to remain childless. British PM Theresa May has also been questioned on her childless status several times.
The only female politician who seems to have some immunity to the childless criticism is Julie Bishop but even she has not escaped the childless question commonly reserved exclusively for women in public life.
Women are severely under-represented in positions of power. This is not anything new.
Corporations often preach about trying to obtain gender equality in management positions but few have asked the question "what do women want?"
A common approach is to plonk women in management roles to fill quotas. This approach was used by the Labor party to increase female leadership, but are quotas the best way to obtain equality? They certainly are a start but just like not all men are good managers, not all women are either. Being an effective manager or leader requires people skills, being able to manage a team, giving constructive feedback. No one said it was easy.
A more effective approach may be to recognise the leadership talents of women in a more organic environment and nourish that talent to ensure that women get the opportunity to shine.
Just like managers who get plonked into their roles by virtue of ''being there the longest''. Leadership qualities make good managers. Not gender, not race or the amount of time someone has been with a company. We do need to overcome the natural bias towards white middle-aged men being managers, but not via quotas.
The other obstacle for women is that as the roles get more advanced, it often comes with a lack of flexibility. There is also the assumption that certain roles cannot possibly be part time or work from home. Mainly because it hasn't been done before. Our preconceived ideas of advanced roles don't allow us to see flexibility in them (even if it's possible). If management roles had some flexibility (even if it was via job share) it not only opens up an opportunity for others but assists women to advance their careers in a more meaningful way.
Another obstacle women face is the guilt for having to leave work early due to family commitments. Workplaces are obsessed with this preconceived, inaccurate idea that longer hours equals more work. Also, the notion that if you aren't physically at work, that you cannot be possibly working.
Women who advance themselves in careers are expected to behave like men who don't have family responsibilities, yet are vilified for behaving like men (by not having children). The entire workplace structure was designed for men who were never riddled with home responsibilities. They were left to do their job and their wife took care of the home duties. The parent status of a man is never questioned and they are applauded for choosing to have a family. Even when their wife does the bulk of the load at home that allows them to advance their career.
There is also an assumption that it's women who choose to ''selfishly'' have a family, even when it's usually – one would hope – a ''family decision'' and not one reserved solely for the woman to make. The fork in the road that a lot of women experience is around their 30s where their career is advancing and they need to make the call with their partner to start a family. The criticisms that Ardern ''should have waited'' don't stack up. It's common knowledge that women's fertility takes a nose-dive after the age of 35. It would have been foolish for her to wait.
For women to advance in their careers, they need flexibility and support both at home and at work. We need to get rid of the old working life stereotypes and start campaigning for a more forward-thinking workplace.
The real reason people find Ardern's situation hard to digest is that it's never really been done before. It's not the norm for a woman to be prime minister and even more unusual to be pregnant while in the role. Until we start accepting Ardern's situation as the norm, gender equality won't ever be achieved.
Jacinta Coelho is a Fairfax contributor.