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Equality Ombudsman: Defence Forces’ Fitness Tests Favour Men

To become an officer in the Finnish Defence Forces, candidates must prove they can run 2,600 metres in under 12 minutes. In Equality Ombudsman Pirkko Mäkinen’s opinion, this requirement favours men. Mäkinen would like women to have their own requirements under the Cooper test that the army uses to judge the fitness of officer candidates.

Sotilaita kuntoradalla.
Pohjoismaiset kadetit kilpailivat Santahaminan varuskunnan kuntoradalla osana Nordic Cadet Meeting -tapahtumaa 26. toukokuuta. Image: Yle

Running 2,600 metres in under 12 minutes during a Cooper test has proven difficult for women. In the Equality Ombudsman’s opinion the differences in the physical capabilities of men and women should be reflected in the army’s entry requirements.

“These tests could be changed so that they are fair and equitable for both men and women,” said Mäkinen.

According to Mäkinen, a different limit for women candidates would ease the progress of women’s careers in the military, and in that way women would be better represented in the higher military ranks and on international missions.

“It is to be hoped that there would be more women, if they get into this profession,” stated Mäkinen.

"Equality Means the Same Rules for Everyone"

The idea of different standards for male and female recruits does not get much support in the army. The dominant view is that equality means that everyone should have to meet the same standard.

”On the battlefield, bullets don’t distinguish between men and women,” said Mika Penttinen of the National Defence University.

One female student at the University, studying to become an officer in the defence forces, does not believe that different entry requirements for women would be helpful.

Elina Turunen believes that women already vigorously prove their capability and motivation. She would not change the current requirement, and thinks that 2,600 metres in 12 minutes is not too much to ask.

“It’s a good indicator of your condition,” noted Turunen. “You don’t need to be in excellent condition to pass the test.”

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