Finland´s gender parity in politics
Progressive Gender Parity in Politics: Finland’s Female Government Lead by Example
With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we take a look at a powerful, all-female coalition who have written and rewritten the rulebook for women in politics. Proving that women in high-profile positions can be a reality and not just an ambition, the country that has long championed women in leadership roles is reaping the rewards. Step forward Finland.
For more than a century now, our Nordic neighbours have blazed a trail for women in politics. As pioneers in political gender equality, it was the first country in Europe to give women the vote in 1906, and the first in the world to allow them to stand as candidates in elections. Since the start of this century, it has had two female Prime Ministers, and a much-loved female President.
In December things got even more exciting. With the appointment of 34-year-old Social Democrat Sanna Marin as Prime Minister, the Nordic nation found a far more potent ambassador for gender parity. As outlined by the World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/factbox-following-finland-9-facts-about-women-in-government/), she is the youngest serving Prime Minister in the world, mother to a young toddler, and heads a coalition of four other parties that are all led by women. Three of them, like her, are under 40.
For many in Finland and beyond, this government feels like the coming of age for a generation that grew up with gender equality as a reality rather than an ideal. “It’s great we have these young women taking leadership roles”, says Susanna Mikkonen, vice-chair of the Mothers in Business Group. “Sanna Marin is the same age as me, and she is a really big role model for all of us working mothers.”
So, what does this mean or the people of Finland? Well, generous parental leave policies, subsidised childcare and a commitment to work-life balance mean young working mothers are the norm here rather than the exception. Men are as likely as women to be chasing young children through the parks or along the city’s lakes. Statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show it is the only country where fathers spend more time with school-age children than mothers.
Prime Minister Marin, as it happens, has dismissed questions about her age and gender as irrelevant. She believes the commitment to family life, ensuring work stays within limits and that families can afford childcare are some of Finland’s greatest strengths, and the reason it comes near the top of a wide range of global social rankings. This system, in short, is seen as a major source of happiness, and the new government is seen as a natural consequence of that.
“For me it feels like I won the lottery when I was born as a girl in Finland”, says Tanja Auvinen, of the Gender Equality Unit. Like most people working on equality issues in Finland, she’s proud of Marin’s government and the country’s broader achievements in women’s rights, but also points to where progress is slower. “Our history has shown we can be proud of our achievements, but I also think we have to be vocal and always strive for better. We still have lots of work to do.”
As reported by Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/carmenniethammer/2019/12/12/finlands-new-government-is-young-and-led-by-women-heres-what-the-country-does-to-promote-diversity/#43ee24735aa0), the country has a 16% gender pay gap, gig economy work is on the rise, and it has one of the more gender-segregated labour markets in Europe, with men and women clustered in different professions.
Whilst there is still work to be done, it seems such ideals have positively transformed gender roles, parenting, work and social rights both in theory and in practice. It has long been established that gender parity has a fundamental bearing on whether or not economies and societies thrive, and with greater political representation for women, it seems feminism and female leadership has come of age in Finland. Perhaps more traditional governments across the world should take note.