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Women as Members of Parliament

​Women as Members of Parliament

The Parliament's number of women has ballooned in a little over a century

In 1907, the number of women elected was 19, with women's share of Members of Parliament at 9.5%. The number of women was at an all-time high in the 2011–2015 electoral term, when 85 women (42.5%) were elected as Members of Parliament. In the present Parliament, there are two female MPs fewer. The number of women in the Parliament has increased to such a significant degree in one hundred years that the gender ratio is now balanced, even though women have yet to achieve a majority.

In the pre-independence era, the number of women was higher than in 1907 on a couple of occasions (1908: 24; 1916: 25). The Parliament that started its work in 1916 had one in eight female Members of Parliament; remarkable at a time when women were usually simply not elected to the Parliament.

Gaining independence turned the number of female representatives downwards: between the two world wars, the number of female Members of Parliament reached ten per cent only once (1922: 20). The trough was hit in the 1930 election, when only 11 women (5.5%) were elected. The contributing factors for this are sought for in the values of the time and the society's conception of motherhood: woman's work was done at home, in the family circle, not with representational democracy at the Parliament.

The number of women at the Parliament began to grow in the elections succeeding the WWII. The growth in the number of women has taken place at a particularly rapid pace as of the late 1960s, preceded by a slight fall in the late 1950s. Women's number in the Parliament exceeded the 20 per cent limit in the 1970 election and 30 per cent in the 1983 election. In the 1991 election, a superb record was set as 77 female Members of Parliament were elected. With 67 elected female Members of Parliament, the 1995 election saw, for the first time in over thirty years, a decrease in the number of women elected. In the 2007 election, the 40 per cent limit was broken.

​Number of female Members of Parliament, 1907–2015

Figure 3. Number of female Members of Parliament, 1907–2015
Detailed number data in the Appendix

The development of female representation in the Parliament can be examined with the help of the model below:
- Male domination Under 10 per cent of the elected candidates are women.
- Women as a small minority 10–25 per cent of the elected candidates are women.
- Women as a large minority 25–40 per cent of the elected candidates are women.
- Gender equality 40–60 per cent of the elected candidates are women (Dahlerup – Layenaar 2013, 8–10).

Based on a review of this kind, there has been male domination at the Parliament before the 1948 election apart from a few occasions. Women have been a large minority from 1979. Gender balance has prevailed at the Parliament from 2007 on.

Women have been elected to the most important positions of the representative system

Women have been breaking the political glass ceilings from the early 1990s in particular, when a record number (77) of women MPs was elected. The Network of Finnish Women Members of Parliament was established and has ever since sustained a discussion on gender equality and women's rights and introduced female perspective to drafting of legislation.

The proportion of female ministers in the government began to grow in the 1990s and the sphere of positions began to extend from the traditional roles of social affairs, educations, etc. The success of Elisabeth Rehn in the 1994 presidential election encouraged women to seek the highest posts available.

 

First female minister Second Minster of Social Affairs Miina Sillanpää 1926–1927
Chair of a Committee Education and Culture Committee 1945–1946 Hertta Kuusinen
Minister of Social Affairs Tyyne Leivo-Larsson 1949
​Minister of Education Kerttu Saalasti 1954–1956
Second Minister of Agriculture Vieno Simonen 1956–1957
Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anna-Liisa Linkola 1975–1978
Minster of Trade and Industry Pirkko Työläjärvi 1981–1982
Minister of Justice Tarja Halonen 1990–1991 (Professional Sylvi Inkeri Anttila 1975)
Minister of Defence Elisabeth Rehn 1990–1995
Speaker of Parliament Riitta Uosukainen 1994–2003
Minister for Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen 1995–2000
President of the Republic Tarja Halonen 2000–2012
Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki 2003
​Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen 2011–2014

 

The number of female ministers reached an all-time high with the introduction of the Vanhanen II Cabinet in 2007, as 12 of the 20 ministers were women. In the current Cabinet of Juha Sipilä, five of the total 14 ministers are women.    

Parliaments with the highest female participation in 2016

41.5% of the Members of the current Finnish Parliament are women. With this rate, the Parliament comes in tenth in the comparison between Parliaments. More than a half of the MPs are women in the Parliaments of Rwanda and Bolivia at present. In a European comparison, Finland comes in the second place right after Sweden (43.6%) In the other extreme of the statistics, there are six Parliaments without female representation.

​Number of representatives ​Number of female representatives ​Percentage of female representatives
​1. ​Rwanda ​80 ​51 ​63,8
​2. ​Bolivia ​130 ​69 ​53,1
​3. ​Cuba ​612 ​299 ​48,9
​4. ​The Seychelles ​32 ​14 ​43,8
​5. Sweden ​349 ​152 ​43,6
​6. ​Senegal ​150 ​64 ​42,7
​7. ​Mexico ​498 ​211 ​42,4
​8. ​South Africa ​400 ​168 ​42,0
​9. ​Ecuador ​137 ​57 ​41,6
​10. ​Finland ​200 ​83 ​41,5


The percentage of the total number of female Members of Parliament in the world stands at 22.7% at present (unicameral system or lower chamber). In the Nordic countries, there are long traditions of strong female participation, which is visible in the local comparison:

%
​Nordic Countries ​41,1
​America ​27,3
​Europe, excluding the Nordic Countries ​24,1
​Africa, sub-Saharan ​23,3
​Asia ​19,1
​Arab countries ​18,4
​Pacific countries ​13,2

 

Of the European Parliament, 35.2% of the Members are women. More than half of the Members of the European Parliament in Finland, Sweden and Estonia are women. Finland is on top of these statistics, as eight of its 13 places (61.5%) are held by female members.