1. Electoral system and party system and their impact on women
2. History of Women's suffrage
3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and
women in political decision-making
a. Infrastructure responsible for EO
b. Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy
c. Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics
Report from Finland by our transnational partner
Jaana Katriina Kuusipalo
*sources: Employment in Europe 1999 and Schlüsselzahlen zum Bildungswesen
in der Europäischen Union, Amt für amtliche Veröffentlichungen der
Europäischen Gemeinschaft 1997, Luxemburg; European Database - Women
in Decision-Making and data by transnational experts.
|Women in Politics:
|Women's suffrage active:
|Women's suffrage passive:
|1st Women in parliament:
|| 1907-1919 10% women in the first parliament
|1st Women in government:
|| 1926 Miina Sillapää,
Ministry of Social Affairs
|1st Ministry on women's issues:
|| No Ministry
|% women in national Parliament:
|% women in national Government:
||PR with preferential voting, d'Hondt regional list-system,
||Act on Equality between Women and Men (amendment in 1995).
||On party no quota regulation level for candidate selection,
but for decision-making bodies.
|% women with secondary degree:
|% women with degree in higher education:
|% women in senior management:
|Women's employment rates:
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1. Electoral system and party system
and their impact on women|
Finland has a multi-party system and PR electoral system (d'Hondt) with
multi-member constituencies. This system opens lists and offers preferential
voting that seems to favour women. * This is especially noticeable since more
than half of the female voters (57%) and 25% of the male voters vote for
women (poll, 1991). The system enables the tactic of supporters to concentrate
their votes on a few (female) candidates. (To minimize vote splitting, a person
can be elected with often relatively limited support.) Previously this was the
main tactic of women's organizations within political parties. Since 1978,
primaries among party members have been required by law for the selection of
candidates. This may also have helped women in the multi-party system with
hard party competition. Increasing the number of female candidates has also
enabled political parties to attract female voters.
Most (53%) of the female
MP's are from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Coalition
Party (KOK). These are among the three largest parties (with the Centre Party).
In addition, the small parties have female MP's. For example, the majority (82%)
of the MP's of the Green League (VIHR) are now women.
* Source: Victoria Garcia Munoz: Differential Impact of the Electoral Systems on
Female Political Representation; European Parliament, 1997.
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Finland, then an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia, was the first in Europe
and the second in the world to give women the right to vote and to stand
for Parliament. In 1906, universal suffrage extended to both sexes at the
same time. This was the aim of both the Social Democratic Party (1899) and
the temperance movement, but it was the women's movement that kept the issue
of women's suffrage on the public agenda. Since only 8% of the whole
population had the right to vote, universal suffrage was not only women's
issue. Women participated along with men in the national movement
(across the class lines) against 'russification' (the tsar's decision to
reverse the autonomy in 1899). The struggle ended to the General Strike in 1905.
After this point, the radical parliamentary reform with unicameral 200-member
parliament came into force in 1906. The first democratic elections were held
in 1907 and 19 women, 10% from nearly all existing political parties, were elected.
Universal suffrage in municipal elections was received in the same year as the
Independence (1917). Since this time, the Finnish women have had a high representation
in the Eduskunta breaking the record of 20% in 1970, 30% in 1983, and nearly 40%
in 1991. Now the proportion of women in the Eduskunta is 37% (1999) and in municipal
councils 31.5% (1996).
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3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political
The Constitution Act of Finland (1995)*: A general aim of promoting equality of
the sexes: (Section 5(4)): Equality of the sexes shall be promoted in social activities
and in working life, particularly in the determination of remuneration and other terms
of service, in a manner more precisely specified by Act of Parliament.
Act on Equality between Women and Men (1987; amendments in 1988, 1992, and 1995)**:
(1) The promotion of the equality of the sexes is an official duty of public authorities:
(Section 4(1)): Public authorities shall promote equality between women and men by planning
and setting objectives, and especially by changing such circumstances which prevent
equality of the sexes. (2) Gender quotas (40/60): (Section 4(2)): The minimum percentage
of both women and men in government committees, advisory boards and other corresponding
bodies, and in municipal bodies, exclusive of municipal councils, shall be 40, unless there
are special reasons to the contrary. (Section 4(3)): If an agency, an institution or a
municipal or State-majority company has an administrative board, board of directors or
some other executive or administrative body consisting of elected or appointed
representatives, that organ shall comprise an equitable proportion of both women and men,
unless there are special reasons to the contrary. (3) The promotion of the equality between
women and men is a responsibility of employers:(Section 6a): If an employer regularly employs
a staff of at least 30, said employer shall include measures to further equality between
women and men at the workplace in the annual personnel and training plan or the action
programme for labour protection. (4) Special measures (positive actions) to promote equality
between women and men are allowed: Employers are also otherwise encouraged to draw up these
so-called equality plans. According to the Section 9 procedure based on a plan aiming at
practical fulfillment of the aim of this Act shall not be deemed to constitute discrimination.
* Basic reference in the Constitution: A constitutional law or similar legal text.
** Equal opportunities legislation: Quota concerning electoral lists, parties, advisory
boards, the civil service etc.; if relevant, also failed important attempts to produce such
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a. Infrastructure responsible for EO
Permanent equal status institutions in Finland: (1)The Council for Equality between
Men and Women is appointed by the Government for a period of 3 years, and comprises 13
members, nominated by political parties. The Council has a permanent Secretariat,
including a Coordinator for Women's Studies (since 1981). (2) The Office of the
Ombudsman for Equality;The Equality Board (1987) have 5 members representing expertise
in the areas of law, industrial relations, and gender equality.
The 'equality movement'
(Yhdistys 9) and a state committee on status of women (1966-1970) initiated the idea
of founding the Council for Equality between Men and Women in 1972 1. Set up as a
standing committee under the Prime Minister's office, it indicated that gender equality issues
(at least should) concern all sectors of public administration (mainstreaming). In 1986, the
Council was moved under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. A 'committee structure'
reflected the trend to integrate different interest groups into the state machinery.
However, it also reflected a low status placed on the gender equality issues.
The Council had no direct authority, but was instead given a 'policy-advisory role'
of rendering advice to policy-makers and initiating public debates in order to 'change
attitudes'. However, it gave a forum for politicians and representatives of women's
organizations to discuss, for example in different 'divisions' (working groups) special
themes. Present 'divisions' include ones for research (since 1981), for men's role
(since 1988), for violence against women as well as for 'welfare state and gender
equality' (1999). These divisions reflect the recent interests of the Council. The
tasks of the Council include co-ordination of research as well as initiatives and
drafting of reforms in co-operation with other public authorities 2. A cabinet
minister for gender equality (since 1980s), whose task is tagged on to some other
area of responsibility 3, secure support for reforms. A minister and government's
gender equality programmes (1981-1986 and 1997-1999) have guaranteed a certain degree
of recognition by the government. It is also important for mainstreaming to have a
cabinet minister especially for gender equality. Furthermore, mainstreaming, already
the aim of the Council in the 1970s, was the main principle of the Government's
Action Plan for Gender Equality for the period 1997-1999. The Finnish equality
legislation focuses primarily on working life, but includes quotas and recommendations
on promoting gender balance in political decision-making. 4 The mandate of the
Equality Ombudsman and the Equality Board (1987) is to oversee the observance of
the equality legislation, the latter having the authority to prohibit actions and
give fines (sanctions). The tasks of the Ombudsman are: to further gender equality
in society, render advice, disseminate information, handle complaints as well as
to assist complainants and bring their cases before a court. She also has an authority
to inspect workplaces 5. The statements on the interpretation of the equality
legislation made by the Ombudsman have directed the implementation of the gender
equality legislation 6.
1 State machinery to promote gender equality was initiated in early 1960s by the
2 The major reforms are the Act on Equality between Women and Men (1987; amended
1988, 1992, and 1995) and the Act on the Equality Ombudsman and Equality Board (1987).
3 Rather uniquely, from 1991 to 1995 the minister in charge was a female minister
of defence. At this time, the Minister for Gender Equality is a minister for social services.
4 Promoting gender balance in advisory bodies and public committees was recommended
by the Council in 1974. The aim was later strengthened by gender quotas (amendment, 1995)
that changed the composition of the new Council for Equality between Men and Women (1995).
It now includes 6 male and 7 female members.
5 The division of labour between the Council and the Ombudsman has been considered
in a special working group. The task of the former is the general political preparation
of the gender equality policy. The task of the latter will be to take a stand on the
new reforms. This may occur in her duty of overseeing the observance of the legislation.
6 According to the present Ombudsman, the courts have generally begun to take gender
equality issues more seriously, particularly after Finland joined the EU (1995).
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b. Women's participation in politics as a
governmental objective and strategy
The objective written in the (first) Action Plan for Gender Equality of
the Finnish Government (1981-86) was to find measures to increase women's representation
in government committees, advisory boards and alike. This objective was initiated by
the Council for Equality in early 1970s, and was 'inspired' by the UN's women's decade
and CEDAW. In the Act on Equality between Women and Men (1987), a general objective was
stated that there should be both men and women in government committees, advisory boards
and alike. This legislation was one of the conditions of the ratification of CEDAW (1986).
Since the proportion of women in those bodies did not increase much, gender quotas (40/60)
were applied to them as established by the amendment of the Act in 1995. In the final vote
concerning the proposal, all the male ministers voted 'no', while all the female ministers
voted for quotas. In the second Action Plan for Gender Equality (1997-99), there are no
objectives or strategies to promote gender equality in political decision-making. There
is, however, a modest target to increase women's proportion in administrative boards of
State-majority companies to 30% and an aim to increase women's participation in
decision-making on agriculture and forestry issues*.
* The only concrete measure,
excluding the legislation on gender equality, probably ever undertaken (initiated by
the Council for Equality) by the Finnish Government to promote gender equality in political
decision-making, was in 1975. One ninth of the state support for political parties
(legislated by a decree in 1973) was to be given to women's organizations within political
parties by the government decision. However, the Act on Equality states that the promotion
of gender equality is a duty of public authorities. It asserts a responsibility to make
actions plans for gender equality. This, in principle, allows for measures to increase
women's proportion in decision-making positions of public administration (such as top-level
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c. Actions initiated to promote women's
participation in politics
Based on the initiative of the Council for Equality between Women and Men, one
ninth of the state support for political parties (legislated by a decree in 1973), was
to be given to women's organizations within political parties by the government decision in
1975. The women's organizations within political parties - along with the Council for
Equality - are the main actors in promoting women's representation in politics in Finland.
There is a unique network for political and nonpolitical women's organizations (NGO's)
called the Coalition of Finnish Women's Associations for Joint Action
(Nytkis, founded in 1988). This includes all the women's organizations within
political parties. Nytkis works for gender equality across party lines. Often in
close cooperation with the Council for Equality, it has organized numerous seminars,
awareness raising campaigns, and even electoral campaigns (in municipal and
parliamentary elections) to back the female candidates. The cooperation between the
Council and Nytkis resulted, for example, in the 1991 parliamentary elections,
in a campaign called "Elect 101 women to Eduskunta (the parliament of Finland)!"
A problem, which Nytkis has tried to solve for several years, is that women's
organizations (NGO's) in general, and Nytkis itself, do not receive financial
support from the Government on regular basis. However, the aim to establish state
(financial) support on a regular basis for women's organizations involved in
international cooperation on gender equality (such as Nytkis and its member organizations)
was stated in the Action Plan for Gender Equality of the Finnish Government in 1997-99.
Another 'ally' of the Council has been Statistics Finland, and especially its Gender
Statistics' department. Among other things, it has published, on annual basis,
statistics on women's position in society, including women's representation in political
decision-making bodies. In addition, the Gender Statistics has published special reports,
for example, on women leaders in private sector (Women and Men at the Top, 1997 etc.)
and on women in political decision-making (Women and Men in Decision-Making in the
Finnish Society, 1989/99). As a result of the cooperation between Statistics Finland
and the Council for Equality, the first Barometer for Gender Equality in Finland was
published in 1998. This will soon be followed by the report based on the results of
the indicators developed to measure gender equality in decision-making. Scientific
(academic) research on women in politics is not financed by any government programme,
but the Council for Equality has published some special studies on this subject in
the 1970s and 1980s.
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