Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin said having women leaders was not only better for women but also for men - Finland’s gender equality minister is a man, Thomas Blomqvist

By Ian Horswill

Posted on January 24, 2020

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest prime minister at the age of 34, said gender equality in the workplace “just doesn’t happen by itself”.

Sanna Marin, part of a panel on gender equality at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, urged governments and companies to do more to ensure women were treated fairly.

Marin, elected Prime Minister in December, said it was not “that big a deal” for women to be in power in Finland. Five parties in Finland’s coalition government are all led by women and four of their leaders are under the age of 35.

“Hopefully in the future it will be the new normal,” Marin told a less-than-full session on gender equality, where most of the audience were women, reported Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We need laws and we need structures that lead the way to gender equality …. it just doesn’t happen by itself.”

About 3,000 members of the political, philanthropic and corporate elite gathered for four days at the World Economic Forum. They have heard how the free market fails women, who do most domestic work and caring, limiting their paid opportunities.

An Oxfam report released as the summit opened found women and girls did three-quarters of unpaid work, putting in 12.4 billion hours a day – worth US$10.8 trillion a year.

A World Economic Forum report last month said it would take 99.5 years to close the gender gap across politics, economics, health and education, according to current trends.

A WEF spokesman said female participation among the attendees at the summit had risen to 24% this year from 22% last year with a commitment by the organisation to double it by 2030.

Marin highlighted she was not the first woman to be prime minister in Finland. Anneli Jäätteenmäki was the first woman to be elected prime minister in 2003 and Mari Kiviniemi took office in 2010.

Sanna Marin, gender equality, WEF

She said that it was not just gender equality that improved political policy globally but a more general diversity of leaders, in offering “different angles” in the decision-making process.

At the same time, she said having women leaders was not only better for women but also for men – Finland’s gender equality minister is a man, Thomas Blomqvist.

“We all have to fight each and every day for equality, for a better life. It’s very important for everyone to step in, it’s not someone’s else job. That is the reason why I got into politics,” she said.

Marin admitted Finland still had someway to go to achieve gender parity.

This included the reform of parental leave, as she said “too few fathers were spending time with their children while they were young.”

Marin split her parental leave in half with her husband, each spending six months out of work with their daughter.

She said such policy reform was “benefiting everybody, so we need everybody on board.”

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