Career

Dame Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark talk about their incredible friendship

The pair are actually a lot closer than people may have ever imagined.

It's a sight that will come as a surprise to many: two former Prime Ministers from opposing sides of the beehive, happily posing for a magazine cover, their heads leaned in close together, smiling and laughing.

But the truth is, as Dame Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark confide in this week's special issue of New Zealand Woman's Weekly, the pair are actually a lot closer than people may have ever imagined. And it's been the case for decades – even when they were true political rivals.

"We often chat now – and we did then," tells Jenny. "Helen and I still don't agree on everything, but I immensely respect her leadership, and I expect it's reciprocated. We're leaders in our own right – we don't need the National or Labour parties for that. It doesn't define who we are."

In this special sit-down with the pair – which comes as we prepare to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand – the two powerful women discuss everything from their time in parliament (including the fight to get a women's bathroom on the top floor), their unique relationship, to the role of females in today's society – which, of course couldn't be done without discussing our current PM, Jacinda Ardern.

"When you look at the political scene when we first started out, could you ever have envisaged a 37-year-old woman, living with a partner and having a baby could be a successful Prime Minister?" Helen asks Jenny.

"It was unthinkable. I mean, at 37, I was just starting my ministerial career at 17 on the list. I would have no more thought of being PM than shooting for the moon."

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