The prime ministers of New Zealand and Finland rebuked a reporter for the sexist suggestion that they had only met because they were of a “similar age”.
Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin said they had met in Auckland because they were both leaders and not because they are both women.
“A lot of people will be wondering, are you two just meeting because you are similar in age and have a lot of common stuff there?”, the male journalist from a local radio station asked.
“We are meeting because we are prime ministers,” said Ms Marin, 37, who is on an official visit to New Zealand to boost trade ties.
Ms Ardern, 42, said: “I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were of similar age.”
The former US president and prime minister of New Zealand were both 48 when they met.
Ms Ardern said: “We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics, it’s reality. Because two women meet, it is not simply because of their gender.”
She said Finland offered exports in sectors such as biofuels, agricultural machinery, lifts and communications. New Zealand’s exports to Finland were mostly in wine and beef.
A free trade agreement with the EU could unlock “huge potential” to further boost trade between the two countries, she said.
Ms Arden said the meeting with Ms Marin, the first Finnish prime minister to visit New Zealand, was a chance to “really leverage the economic opportunities between our two countries”.
“It’s our job to further it, regardless of our gender,” she said.
Ms Arden said that both women had a “strong commitment” to supporting Ukraine. Ms Marin said they had also discussed the protests in Iran against the compulsory wearing of the hijab.
“I also worry about the situation in Iran right now,” Ms Marin said. “The brave women that are protesting against the laws and the security situation of women in Iran, we need to address these kinds of issues together.”
Ms Marin was criticised after a video of her dancing at a private party was leaked earlier this year. Her supporters suggested the attacks on her were sexist.
At the time Ms Ardern suggested she thought the criticism of Ms Marin was too fierce.
There was controversy in 2020 after Ms Marin posed in a black blazer with a plunging neckline and apparently nothing underneath the trouser suit jacket for the front cover of a fashion magazine.
While some Finns thought the images were inappropriate, others posted similar images of themselves on social media, or topless photos of male leaders such as Vladimir Putin, with the hashtag #imwithsanna.
Ms Marin was asked about her reputation as a party-loving prime minister.
“You are free to discuss and write what you want, but I am focused on the issues,” she said.
Last month, Ms Ardern admitted her term as prime minister has not been “plain sailing” but added she had not faced blatant sexism from other politicians in the same way former Australian leader Julie Gilliard did.
Both leaders face elections next year.
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