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Women gradually increasing presence on Finland’s union, federation boards

An Yle survey found that women were much more likely to sit on the boards of trade unions than on employer federations.

The number of women sitting on trade union and employer federation boards is increasing, but the pace of change is slow. Image: Yle / Henrietta Hassinen

The number of women sitting on the boards of Finland’s trade unions and employer federations is gradually increasing, but the pace of change is slow, according to the results of an Yle survey.

For example, women currently make up an average of about one-fifth of the board members of employer federations.

Since 2017, the number of women sitting on these boards has increased by just five, meaning there are currently a total of 44 women and 174 men on the boards of Finland’s ten main employer groups.

The figures include organisations such as the Confederation of Finnish Construction Industries, which had no female board members; the Finnish Food and Drink Industries' Federation, which had three women out of 31 board members; as well as the Finnish Commerce Federation, which had two out of 20.

Yle’s research has been calculated on the basis of data available at the time of publication and does not include deputy board members.

Female representation stronger on union boards

By contrast, almost half of the employee unions’ board members were women.

Yle’s survey found that there were 92 women and 97 men sitting on the boards of the ten main employee unions.

The difference between the unions and the federations is largely explained by the way in which trade union boards members are selected, which is on the basis of the organisation’s membership.

Therefore, if there are a large number of both male and female union members, it is likely that both genders will also be equally represented on the board. If there are more female members of the union, there will consequently tend be a majority of women on the board.

The board of the service sector union PAM, for example, had ten women and six men, while nurses union SuPer had 14 women and just one man sitting on the board.

The boards of employers' groups, on the other hand, are mainly comprised of CEOs or company chairs, the vast majority of whom tend to be men.

However, the survey also found that there are signs of change.

At the beginning of this year, Jaana Tuominen became the first woman to be appointed chair of the board of the Confederation of Finnish Industries, the largest employers' association in Finland.