Gender Equality in Finland and the US

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Introduction

With the emergence of movements such as #MeToo and the rise of unfit men in political offices, the US’s long history of discrimination and sexual abuse targeted at women has come into the light. The gender gap in leadership positions across the globe continues, regardless of women being about 50% of the international workforce and forming a high proportion of college graduates according to Castrén (2019). In politics, women across the globe hold about 25% of all parliamentary positions and 21% of ministerial roles. Only about 75 of the 197 countries in the world have had a woman head of state (Castrén, 2019). By comparing gender equality and representation in Finland and the United States, this paper argues that increased gender equality correlates with the augmented representation of women in politics and legislation. Finland which has a record of being more egalitarian takes position 4 while the US ranks number 51 according to the Global Gender Gap Index (Ikävalko & Kantola, 2017). Nations and organizations around the world should support both men and women to have equal chances of acquiring the skills, expertise, and mentorship necessary to ascend to leadership positions.

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Comparison

Compared to the United States, Finland is a very small nation that has about 5.5 million citizens (Ikävalko & Brunila, 2019), nearly the size of the American state of Minnesota. However, Finland serves as a great example for the US through proof of being more egalitarian with a higher representation of women than the United States. For instance, the 5 political parties that form the present coalition government in Finland are all led by influential women although men have taken other leadership roles and of the 5 political parties, 4 of the leaders are females below the age of 35 years (Castrén, 2019). Finland ranks higher when compared with the political leadership in the United States, with regard to the executive and legislative divisions on the two sections of the political sides. America has a high number of mainly male septuagenarians along with even octogenarians which encompasses the current president, in addition to his three main opponents among the field of possible Democratic nominees with just one woman. This means that the majority of political leaders in the US have deprived women of their right to hold leadership positions.

Finland was among the first nations to offer women their political rights and has implemented measures of nurturing the legacy. The inclusion of women in political leadership positions in Finland has played a vital role in enhancing gender equality by narrowing the existing gap. This has been facilitated by generous parental leave plans and the establishment of daycare programs. Attributable to the long-term strategies, it has been affirmed that men in Finland form the highest proportion of males across the globe who use most of their time with their children when compared to their female counterparts (Ikävalko & Kantola, 2017). Certainly, contrary to Finland, the US does not have a common daycare or parental leave scheme. Although Finland has implemented measures that promote gender equality, they have not bridged the gender gap yet. Gender equality acts as a social innovation that has created a sense of renewal and prosperity since the contribution of both men and women supports a wide scope of talents.

Finland had been undertaking endeavors toward gender equality even before it attained independence. In the 1850s, Finland had influential women activists who advocated equal educational opportunities for women and elucidated its significance. Early women’s organizations in Finland were established in the 1880s, which resulted in the increasing intensity of the voice for equal rights for women. Furthermore, Finland endorsed equal inheritance rights for both males and females in 1878, and women were allowed to have university education in 1901 (Craig et al., 2019). Nevertheless, it took strenuous efforts for females in Finland to become the first internationally to acquire extensive political rights in 1906. During this period, the first nineteen women members of parliament across the globe took office hence raising hopes of gender equality in Finland. This parliament instigated numerous legislative social strategy developments that benefitted females in their various tasks. Miina Sillanpää was the first woman minister in Finland who also became the head of social affairs in 1926. In the same year, a law was enacted in Finland concerning the qualification of females to hold leadership positions in public office. From around the year 2000, the proportion of female candidates and elected members of parliament in Finland has been at a constant 40%. In 2019, 47% of the elected members of parliament were women while the rest, 53%, were men. The fraction of female members in parliamentary committees is sometimes as high as 85%.

The experiences of women in any cultural background differ broadly depending upon their nationality, race, religion, ability, age, and ethnicity to mention a few. The interplay engaging the different social classes denotes intersectionality. Attributable to how it is endorsed and experienced being reliant on its interaction with other social divisions and uniqueness, gender has been deemed intersectional. Contrary to the situation in Finland, in the 1960s, the condition in the United States was dismal. In the 1960s, equality, especially among black women was only a dream regardless of the existence of civil rights movements and lobby groups (Burn, 2011). During this time, Finland established an equal rights’ association of men and women and activists mainly spoke concerning the fair allotment of care responsibilities. It is such endeavors that ensured the establishment of the first parental leave scheme in the decade that followed.

Sexual and reproductive matters were part of the advocacy for gender equality in Finland and abortion was allowed for the protection of women against carrying the burden of violence such as rape among other social reasons. The discourse regarding violence against women increased and shelters was set up. The 1970s witnessed the commencement of gender equality schools in Finland, encompassing the 1972 establishment of the Council for Gender Equality. In 1971, the enactment of the Employment Contracts Act outlawed discrimination anchored in gender (Jalovaara&Fasang, 2020). Therefore, the creation of the Finnish welfare platform, entailing among other aspects the establishment of social security and pension schemes, highly empowered women, and reinforced gender equality concerns in society.

In the 1980s, gender equality turned out to be an important issue of discourse in the global collaboration in which the United Nations was a pioneer. The position of women was comprised in the discussion, over and above in debate, and Finland became a vital player in the development that evoked concerns such as sexual protection, reproductive rights, and family violence. In all vices, women had been on the losing end. In 1986, Finland approved the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was followed by the commencement of the operations of Ombudsman for Equality in 1987. Finland has been at the forefront in strengthening the United Nations’ declaration on Women, Peace, and Security. Although Finland is still far from being perfect, its status as a good example of gender equality across the globe has been rising (Gradín, 2020). In some instances, the country has also learned from others with numerous significant legal reforms and programs on gender equality being the emulation of different nations in the global arena. Moreover, the United Nations and the European Union have had a remarkable influence on gender equality and non-prejudiced strategies in Finland, particularly regarding taking vital measures in the eradication of violence against women.

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The United States’ notorious glass ceiling has led to increased evidence of cases of gender discrimination even in sectors such as paid employment (Burn, 2011). Increasing generous leave plans and allowing women to rise equally to management positions partially elucidate the reduced glass ceiling, in addition to obstinately huge wage gaps in progressive nations such as Finland. Unlike in Finland, a problem within organizations in the United States is that women are structurally disadvantaged attributable to gender job-related segregation. Essentially, this signifies that women are mainly in occupations that have little power and restricted mobility. Such jobs have a low probability of resulting in promotion to high-level positions. This is one of the many reasons that make Finland rank higher in the gender parity index than the United States.

By endorsing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Finland has committed, at least through the implementation of some policies, to eradicating prejudice against females and supporting gender equality in all aspects from the medical sector to education, political leadership, marriage, and management positions. With such practices comes an agreement, in law, to combat societal problems such as gender-associated violence, as well as sex trafficking. On the contrary, the US is only a signatory to CEDAW, and ratification of such an agreement requires about 67% of the senate to vote in its support (Burn, 2011). Sadly, CEDAW has not even been tabled in the Senate for the commencement of the voting process.

Apart from the gender parity index where Finland ranks among the best, it has taken the leading position in the yearly assessment of more than 155 nations that feature in the World Happiness Report while the US is at number 19. In this regard, in the 2019 statement on happiness, a full chapter was based on the concerns in the United States and carried the title of the sad situation in America and the implication of digital media (de Looze et al., 2018). This brings the issue of the increased happiness of Finns over that of Americans. High happiness in Finland is irrespective of the fact that during long winter seasons, Finns do not have a glimpse of the sun unlike the situation in the United States.

Good health and decreased prejudice against women is part of the increased personal happiness of people in Finland. In contrast to the discriminative policies in the United States, the over 129-year old Finnish medical system covers all the people in Finland, encompassing legal immigrants. Furthermore, the Finnish healthcare system ensures treatment at about 50% of the medical costs in America. The system in Finland is taxpayer-financed and nearly free for all. Close to 90% of both men and women of all races are satisfied with the quality and cost of healthcare in the country (Gradín, 2020). Accordingly, Finland has implemented policies to care for the health concerns of women, especially during pregnancy, which has made the country record one of the lowest infant mortality rates internationally. Regardless of its vast wealth, the US ranks number 54. Attributable to non-discriminatory health care policies, life expectancy in Finland stands at about 82 years while that of the United States is 79 years.

Gender equality policies should be underpinned by laws and conventions. Finland implemented its first government-initiated gender equality policy in 1980. This program resulted in the enactment of the law on equality between women and men in Finland, which was passed in 1987. This law forbids discrimination based on gender and supports equal treatment and pay for working males and females. Since then, other vital measures have been taken and laws enforced. For example, the Names Act permits women to maintain their family names even after marriage and allows children to select any of their parents’ last names. Moreover, the first women priests in Finland were ordained in 1988 and joint legal custody was endorsed in 1983 (Yee &Kwing-Chin, 2020). In 1990, Finland had the first woman head the defense ministry, a situation that had not been witnessed anywhere in the world before.

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The world is still far from closing the gender gap and much requires being done to improve the situation in Finland despite its ranking first in some areas. For example, such tasks as care responsibilities have not been adequately shared among women and men, and equality is yet to be realized on concerns such as payment. Additionally, there are still high cases of violence against women in Finland, which necessitate stringent measures to address the problem. Although this is similar to occurrences in the United States, Finland seeks to put the gender equality debate in the limelight and implement measures towards improving the situation in sectors that are still reporting challenges (Gradín, 2020). In the centennial celebration of its independence, Finland is commencing the groundbreaking International Gender Equality Prize. This is meant to underscore the fact that the entire global community should implement gender equality programs more determinedly than ever before, and set examples that are geared towards the closure of the existing gap.

Conclusion

Regardless of women being 50% of the global workforce and forming a high percentage of college graduates, they hold just around 25% of all executive positions. Countries and organizations around the world should make sure that women have equal chances of acquiring the skills, proficiency, and mentorship needed to ascend to leadership positions. Finland ranks higher in gender equality concerns than the US and is proof of being more egalitarian with a greater representation of women than America. The inclusion of women in political leadership positions in Finland has played a fundamental role in improving gender equality by reducing the existing gap. All countries across the globe should implement equality programs determinedly, and embark on effective policies geared towards the closure of the gender gap. Finland ranks higher compared with the political control in America concerning the leadership and legislative sectors. From the year 2000, the fraction of women candidates and elected members of parliament in Finland has been about 40%.

References

Burn, S. M. (2011). Women across cultures: A global perspective (3rd ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Castrén, A. M. (2019). Becoming “us”: Marital name, gender, and agentic work in transition to marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 81(1), 248-263. Web.

Craig, L., Churchill, B., & Wong, M. (2019). Youth, recession, and downward gender convergence: Young people’s employment, education, and homemaking in Finland, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States 2000–2013. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 26(1), 59-86. Web.

de Looze, M. E., Huijts, T., Stevens, G. W. J. M., Torsheim, T., & Vollebergh, W. A. (2018). The happiest kids on earth. Gender equality and adolescent life satisfaction in Europe and North America. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47(5), 1073-1085. Web.

Gradín, C. (2020). Segregation of women into low-paying occupations in the United States. Applied Economics, 52(17), 1905-1920. Web.

Ikävalko, E., & Brunila, K. (2019). Coming to discursive-deconstructive reading of gender equality. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 42(1), 33-45. Web.

Ikävalko, E., & Kantola, J. (2017). Feminist resistance and resistance to feminism in gender equality planning in Finland. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 24(3), 233-248. Web.

Jalovaara, M., & Fasang, A. E. (2020). Family life courses, gender, and mid-life earnings. European Sociological Review, 36(2), 159-178. Web.

Yee, J. C. W., & Kwing-Chin, K. L. (2020). The economic cost of gender inequality: The global progress and creating change. Economics, 9(1), 17-20. Web.

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