Women in Finland

Women in Finland

An 1885 statue of the Finnish maiden leaning on a tablet with the lyrics of the National Anthem of Finland, Walter Runeberg, sculptor.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.075 (2012)
Rank 6th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 5 (2010)
Women in parliament 42.5% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 100.0% (2010)
Women in labour force 67.7% (employment rate OECD definition, 2015)[1]
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value 0.8421 (2013)
Rank 2nd out of 144

Women in Finland enjoy a "high degree of equality" and "traditional courtesy" among men.[3] In 1906, the women of Finland became the first women in Europe to be granted the right to vote.[4] There are many women in Finland who hold prominent positions in Finnish society, in the academics, in the field of business,[4] and in the government of Finland. An example of powerful women in Finnish politics is Tarja Halonen, who became the first female president of the country (she was Foreign Minister of Finland before becoming president). In religion, where most of the Finnish people are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (the other major Christian denomination in Finland is the Orthodox Church), women can be ordained as priests. In terms of finance, Finnish women have been described as "usually independent financially". Married women, by custom, introduces themselves by mentioning their forename first, then their maiden name, and then the surname of their husbands.[3] Finnish women have been describe by The Telegraph as:

Finnish women are much more outgoing and approachable than the men and often command three or four languages. Their position in society and business is well-respected and superior to that of women in most other cultures.[5]


In using the sauna, women bathe separately from men, except if they are with family members.[3]


Finland is bordered on the east by Russia, on the south by the Gulf of Finland and Estonia, and on the west by the Gulf of Bothnia and Sweden, and on the north/north west by Norway. ¼ of the territory is north of the Arctic Circle.[6]


By Gender

Total Population: 5,364,546

Men Population: 2,632,309

Women Population: 2,732,237[7]

Life Expectancy

Years for Total Population: 79.69

Male: 76.24 years

Female: 83.29 years[8]

Women's suffrage

13 of the total of 19 female MPs, who were the first female MPs in the world, elected in Finland's parliamentary elections in 1907.

The area that in 1809 became Finland was a group of integral provinces of the Kingdom of Sweden for over 600 years, signifying that also women in Finland were allowed to vote during the Swedish Age of Liberty (1718–1772), when suffrage was granted to tax-paying female members of guilds[9]

The predecessor state of modern Finland, the Grand Duchy of Finland was part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917 and enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. In 1863 taxpaying women were granted municipal suffrage in the country side, and in 1872, the same reform was given to the cities[10]

The Parliament Act in 1906 established the unicameral parliament of Finland and both women and men were given the right to vote and stand for election. Thus Finnish women became the first in the world to have unrestricted rights both to vote and to stand for parliament. In elections the next year, 19 female MPs, first ones in the world, were elected and women have continued to play a central role in the nation's politics ever since. Miina Sillanpää, a key figure in the worker's movement, became the first female minister in 1926.

Finland's first female President Tarja Halonen was voted into office in 2000 and for a second term in 2006. Since the 2011 parliamentary election, women's representation stands at 42,5%. In 2003 Anneli Jäätteenmäki became the first female Prime Minister of Finland, and in 2007 Matti Vanhanen's second cabinet made history as for the first time there were more women than men in the cabinet of Finland (12 vs. 8).

Women's Rights Movement

In 1970 there was a brief but strong women’s movement. Rape in marriage wasn’t considered a crime at the time, and victims of domestic violence had nowhere to go when things got really ugly. They also fought for a day-care system that would be open to the public, and for the right for not only paid maternity leave but also paternity leave. Today there is a 263-day parental leave in Finland. and making it illegal to discriminate against women in the workforce. Two feminist groups were created to help the movement: The Marxist-Feminists and the Red Women. The feminists in Finland had got a lot of their inspiration from other European countries such as Sweden and Switzerland. Other important groups for the Finnish women in the 1970s include "Unioni" and "The Feminists"[11]

Women’s rights

Finland became one of the first countries to grant women the right to vote, and still today they are among the top countries for women equality. "Finland was voted second in the Global Gender Gap Index in women’s rights." In 2003 the government of Finland appointed some issues with the gender equality. They planned to promote gender equality over the entire public administration, reform the Act on Equality that the men and women in Finland share, promote equal pay for work of equal value, increase amount of women in political and economic roles, assessing gender equality from male point of view, prevent domestic violence and intimate partner violence, protects against victims of trafficking and possibilities to criminalize buying sex. This act is called the Government Action Plan for Gender Equality and it included more than 100 issues that needed discussion.[12]


In History

In the late 18th century and early 19th century private schools for girls were established in Finland, among the more known being those of Christina Krook, Anna Salmberg and Sara Wacklin. These schools were criticized for its shallow education of accomplishments, which resulted in the decision that girls should be included in the school reform of 1843, and the following year, two Swedish-language state schools for girls was founded in Turku and Helsinki, Svenska fruntimmersskolan i Åbo and Svenska fruntimmersskolan i Helsingfors.[13] This led to the establishment of a net of girl schools of a similar kind in Finland. At first the schools were reserved for girls from upper-class families.

At this time it wasn’t possible for the girls to pass the baccalaureate and move on to university studies. In 1865 a grammar school made it clear that only girls whose upbringing and manners were impeccable and whose company can’t be considered detrimental to others, and who were from "respectable" families could be in the school.

After the first woman in Finland, Maria Tschetschulin, was accepted as a university student in 1870, advanced classes and colleges classes were included in many girl schools to prepare students for university, and in 1872, the demand that all students must be members of the Swedish language upper classes was dropped. Women were given the right to teach in grammar schools for girls in 1882.[14]

When the dispensation for female university students was dropped and women were accepted at the same terms as men in 1915, girls and boys started to receive the same education in the school system, and the girl schools in Finland started to be changed to same sex education, a development which was completed in the 1970s.


Comparing to the rest of the world Finland students start their schooling a year after a lot of other countries. Even with this fact, Finland is now one of the top-performing countries in mathematical skills, but also one of the few whose boys performed as well as girls. While in most countries the most able girls lag behind the most able boys in mathematics performance, according to the PISA 2012 Results Overview, the OECD gender score difference in mathematics, reading, and science was a result of -6 (boys - girls) in Finland. Additionally, while the highest-performing students of problem solving in the world are largely males, Finland makes an exception where the proportion of top-performing females is about the same as the proportion of top-performing males. This is also true among the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) where the top-performers in problem solving are predominantly men except for in Finland, as well as Australia and Canada.[15]

As for Finland's educational benefits for students, Finnish schools offer state-funded school which makes it easier for women and men to go to work after being on parental leave. Women represent 32% of students studying in mathematics and computer science.[16]

Gender Roles

In rural economies, women primarily take care of the cattle while the men are in the field and forest. Being a strong and successful woman in the rural economy involves cow care, child care, food processing, meal preparation, arduous cleaning in shed and house, and ritual displays of hospitality for visitors. However, recently more and more women have left the countryside in greater numbers.

Today women work alongside men in the business, forestry, engineering, and fields, women still only make 81% to each dollar a man makes and this reflects great numbers of women in low paying jobs.

Women in the Workforce

According to the Finnish Labor Force Survey around 32% of the 301,000 people who are self-employed are women. Women first became involved in labor markets through agrarian societies. Even before the public daycare systems, the amount of women in the workforce was still very high, over 50%. The amount of workers in the labor force that makes up the females (ages 15–74) is 51%, where men is 49%. 32% of the women are involved in entrepreneurship.[17]

Equality in the workforce

Employers who have at least 30 employees must have a gender equality plan that includes a women’s and men’s pay comparison. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and other important labor market organizations, set guidelines for gender equality planning.[18]

Women in the Military

The military service is required for men in Finland, but is only voluntary for women. Women who enlist are allowed to train for combat roles.[19] Finland is one of 16 other countries in the world that allow women on the front-line combat positions.[20]

See also


  1. http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=LFS_SEXAGE_I_R#
  2. "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13.
  3. 1 2 3 Alho, Olli. A guide to Finnish customs and manners, November 2002/March 2010
  4. 1 2 Women in Business in Finland, worldbusinessculture.com
  5. National Cultural Profiles – Finland, The Telegraph, 19 December 2006.
  6. "Finland". Countries and Their Cultures.
  7. "Total Population by Gender and Gender Ratio, by Country". GEOHIVE.
  8. "Finland Life expectancy at birth". Index Mundi.
  9. Åsa Karlsson-Sjögren: Männen, kvinnorna och rösträtten : medborgarskap och representation 1723–1866 ("Men, women and the vote: citizenship and representation 1723–1866") (in Swedish)
  10. P. Orman Ray: Woman Suffrage in Foreign Countries. The American Political Science Review. Vol. 12, No. 3 (Aug., 1918), pp. 469-474
  11. "The Womens' Rights Movement in Finland". Fast-Fin-1. Finnish Institutions Research Paper.
  12. "Gender Equality Policies in Finland" (PDF). Brochures of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
  13. Siegberg, Arthur: Den högre kvinnobildningen i Finland, dess utveckling och mål., W. C. Fabritius & Sonner, Kr.a.
  14. Tuomaala, Saara. "The path of Finnish women towards liberty and education". Centenary of Women's full political rights in Finland.
  15. "PISA 2012 Results in Focus" (PDF). OECD Keyfindings Programme for International Student Assessment.
  16. "Centenary of Women's Full Political Rights in Finland". Centenary of Women's Full Political Rights in Finland.
  17. Brush, C.G. (2006). Growth Oriented Women Entrepreneurs and Their Businesses. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 112–114.
  18. "Gender Equality Policies in Finland" (PDF). Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
  19. Reinsberg, Hillary (Jan 2013). "13 Countries That Already Allow Women In Combat". BuzzFeed.
  20. Fisher, Max (Jan 2013). "Map: Which countries allow women in front-line combat roles?". The Washington Post. The Washington Post.
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