Finland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.10 Gender equality and cultural policies

Gender equality has not been explicitly stated as an objective in Finnish cultural policy. Thus its development must be seen as a part of the general development of gender representation and legislative and administrative efforts to make gender representation more equal in all fields of society.

Since the 1970s, Finnish gender policies have converged into a Nordic version of "state feminism", where the main means used have been legal measures, official monitoring and positive action, including parity clauses and quotas in the representation and employment of women in the labour market. Since the Beijing Conference (Fourth World Conference on Women), government policy has been reformulated increasingly in terms of mainstreaming and along the lines expressed in the main EU documents addressing gender equality in representation, employment, career advancement and salaries. This new approach was crystallised in the revised Equality Act of 1995, the 1997 Government Programme on Equality (subtitled "From Beijing to Finland") and the further revision of the Equality Act in 2005.

As the government 1995 Bill for the Amendment of 1986 Equality Act was presented to Parliament, the need for new legislation was justified in terms that "in many respects the goals (of the previous legislation) have not been achieved. Despite changes in legislation the position of women is still distinctly lower than that of men in working life, in the family and in the decision-making mechanisms of society. Especially in working life the objectives of equality have not been achieved. The new law aims at recognising these problems and solving them".

Despite these general arguments, the main practical consequence of the 1995 revision of the Equality Act was the centralisation of responsibilities for monitoring gender equality and the enforcement of a quotarequirement for equal representation of men and women (min. 40% of both genders) in state and municipal executive and expert bodies. The latter stipulation has altered the "gate-keeping system" in the arts and culture, because e.g. the arts councils and municipal boards responsible for cultural affairs must comply with its quota requirement. The 1997 government programme for equality and the equality provisions in the programmes of the subsequent governments in 1999 and 2003 have underlined the need to mainstream all public programmes and legislation pertaining to central government and municipal administration activities. Extensive research and development activities have been initiated and they have also covered the arts and culture.

Despite these legislative and research and development activities, the issues of equal pay and the modes of monitoring gender differences in wages, salaries, recruitment procedures and promotion have remained controversial from a gender equality point of view. The new 2005 revision of the Equality Act aims at solving these controversies by expanding the obligation of public agencies and private enterprises to present annual (or at least triennial) equality plans with detailed gender equality accounts. This obligation was also expanded to cover secondary and higher level educational institutions, including the art universities.

The latest figures from 2009 (Statistics Finland) indicate that women's share in the Finnish cultural professions is 53%. Their share in the dance sector is as high as 73% and in cultural administration, museums, libraries and archives is even higher at 77%. There are, however, some artistic and cultural professions where the share of women is very low, such as composing, circus, press photography etc.

Chapter published: 25-04-2017