Something I’ve noticed lately has been the impact of a feminine touch in politics - if I can put it that way. Whether or not I agree with all of their policies, both NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have won me over with other qualities entirely.
Berejiklian really shone when it came to her recent gain of the NSW Premiership. Although the first woman to be elected into the role, that was not an angle she used to push her campaign. As a news.com.au article put it, “She didn’t do it by being brash, in-your-face, combative or ego-driven; all qualities so often associated with federal politicians who get close to the top of the tree. Instead, she went about things a different way. Her way.”
She focused on hard work to get things done – things that she is obviously passionate about. And her passion stood out a mile when she went head to head with her opposition, Michael Daley, in their pre-election debate. That night he gave the air of the stereotypical male in politics, sticking to rehearsed lines and large, vague statements. She knew facts, figures, and the fire of her enthusiasm could be seen over and beyond her nerves (which, while evident at times, made her all the more likeable).
Her classy demeanour extended to the night of her win as well. Her victory speech was down-to-earth, warm, and never arrogant. You could really tell that she is the type of humble and genuine human being that is needed in a position of leadership. And she didn’t even take a moment to celebrate with a drink or chat to reporters, rather saying she was eager to get back to work and then rushing off to her electorate to thank her team and supporters there. How refreshing to see a political leader thinking of others over themselves!
And then there’s Jacinda Arden. It would seem she’s always been something of a favourite for being a young female PM who had her baby while in office, but respect for her has grown even more since the Christchurch terrorist attack a couple of weeks ago. In the short time since, she has done so much more than repeating the ‘right’ words, as politicians might typically do. Not only have gun laws been reformed and an inquiry launched, but just the act of grieving while wearing a headscarf served to show solidarity with the Muslim community of New Zealand; and the fact of leaving the gunman nameless was such a profound one. She hasn’t been afraid to say in interviews that she is so saddened by what has happened.
While Ardern’s courses of action seem deliberate, a terrorist attack doesn’t really give leaders too much time to think. In an article from the Guardian, she describes her actions in the aftermath as intuitive – as acting humanly rather than thinking of the politics. Seems like something of a woman’s touch, doesn’t it?
It’s not to say that men can’t be good leaders – of course they can – but there’s no harm in saying that Berejiklian and Ardern bring a particular warmth and care to the role. And that’s something to appreciate.
Tamara El-Rahi is a full-time mother of two and freelance writer from Sydney.