Finland’s Sanna Marin made history this week as the nation’s first prime minister to visit New Zealand. But the significance was overshadowed during a press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, when a reporter questioned whether the two women’s age and “common stuff” was the reason for the visit, rather than global political relations.
Marin and Ardern are among just a handful of women prime ministers in the world. According to New Zealand’s government, Marin’s visit marks the first time a Finnish PM has visited the country.
“Are you two meeting just because you’re similar in age and you’ve got a lot of common stuff there, you know, when you got into politics and stuff?” Newstalk ZB reporter Joey Dwyer asked the leaders on Wednesday. “Or can Kiwis actually expect to see more deals between our two countries down the line?”
The reason for Marin’s visit had been widely known ahead of this week. Ardern issued a statement on Nov. 23 that she and Marin would discuss trade and sustainable development. The question also seemingly discounted the significant achievements both women have had in their countries.
Ardern, 42, has been New Zealand’s prime minister since 2017, and boasts of her role in passing the landmark Child Poverty Reduction Act and setting policies to fight climate change. She was first elected to Parliament in 2008 before becoming the country’s youngest PM in more than 150 years, according to the Council of Women World Leaders.
, 37, became Finland’s PM in 2019; she is only the third woman and the youngest person in Finland’s history to hold the seat. As leader of the Social Democratic Party, she has also prioritized climate issues and strengthening social welfare.
Both women handled the sexist questioning with grace.
“My first question is, I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they meet because they were of similar age,” Ardern responded. “We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics, it’s reality. Because two women meet, it’s not simply because of their gender.”
Marin agreed, seemingly chuckling at his question as she responded, “We are meeting because we are prime ministers.”
The press conference occurred on the final day of the leaders’ meeting. In a statement, Ardern said on Wednesday that the two had reiterated their nations’ “similar views and values” and strengthened the countries’ relationship. They also discussed the global economy, labor shortages, the rights of women and girls in Iran, and the war in Ukraine, among other things.