Finnish working life is not equal

Finnish working life is still far away from equality. Differences in, for example, pay and in taking family leaves suggest that the status of women should be drastically improved. Improvements are needed even though gender equality has generally been acknowledged as one of the core values of Finnish working life.

Attitudes prevent progress towards gender equality

As many women as men graduate from business schools with similar grades but, when entering the working life, equality vanishes. Recently graduated professionals often confront, for example, the gender pay gap.

For a long time, we have actively promoted equality at work. It is a challenging task because the attitudes preventing progress are deeply rooted. Taking family leave is a good example of traditional attitudes halting progress. Still, mostly women take family leave in Finland even though men have equal opportunities to take it.

A good place to start changing attitudes are workplaces where reaching work-life balance has been made easy. According to our member feedback, the best employers are those who rigorously follow labour law in everything related to employment relationships and, for example, make sure that those employees on family leave remain in equal position with those at work.

Appropriate treatment of employees is an important asset when companies compete for best talent on the labour market. Regular working hours, equal treatment of temporary and permanent staff and not ’punishing’ employees for having children are important factors from the point of view of employees.

Women need courage

Women have to show initiative to achieve change: they should choose more male-dominated majors in universities, present salary requirements corresponding to their skills and knowledge and share family responsibilities in a more equitable way.
Women should have the courage to step into their zone of uncomfortability and take decisions which may contradict traditional choices. Women should have more determination and risk-taking – if you’re offered a promotion, take it.

We need to increase pay transparency and develop pay structures based on difficulty/required skills level. We encourage female business school graduates to take an active role in promoting their pay development, to ask questions about pay and to initiate salary negotiations. Changing attitudes should start already while studying as the differences in pay often arise already in early career.

New approaches lead to better gender equality

We would welcome more fairness and transparency in the equality debate. The Finnish labour market is still very much divided into male and female jobs. Women are still very poorly represented in boards and top management.

For changing attitudes, everyone’s contribution is needed; that of men and women, team leaders and management.

We encourage companies to introduce an equitable recruitment process where, in the first phase of the process, the applicants’ gender and age are not disclosed, only their aptitude to the job in question.

Many studies suggest that women’s share in the top management of big and important organisations remains very low. Equal career opportunities should be guaranteed for both genders.

One of the equality targets of The Finnish Business School Graduates and The Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland is: unless the share of both genders in the boards of listed companies rises to 40% by 2018, equal opportunities between genders should be secured by temporary statutory quotas. Another target is to expand the board base of Finnish listed companies.

In addition to closing the gender pay gap, we promote the development of gender equality plans and salary surveys as an integral part of them, and better use of them. At the moment, one third of employers do not have a statutory gender equality plan. Also, the present rules on salary surveys should be clarified in order to better promote equal pay.