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SK: Publishing house rejected applicant "because she was a mother"

Alma Media's CEO reportedly told a candidate that she was unsuited for the job because she was "abandoning her family". He now says it was a misunderstanding.

Alma Median toimitusjohtaja Kai Telanne ja valtioneuvoston viestintäjohtaja Päivi Anttikoski.
Kai Telanne and Päivi Anttikoski Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

Finland's weekly news magazine Suomen Kuvalehti contained a story on Friday about a suspected case of gender discrimination. In it, the current communications director for the Prime Minister's Office, Päivi Anttikoski, accuses the CEO of Finland's Alma Media Corporation, Kaj Telanne, of having rejected her bid last year to become chief editor of the leading newspaper in Tampere, Aamulehti, because she was a mother.

Alma Media is the publisher behind the Finnish papers Aamulehti, Iltalehti, Kauppalehti and Talouselämä as well as the job and housing ad platforms and

Anttikoski says that she was under the impression that the recruiting process for the chief editor position was going well. She had met with the business operations director Kari Juutilainen and Aamulehti's HR director Marja-Leena Rautaparta and participated in a suitability test.

She says Rautaparta had told her she was the leading candidate for the position going into the interview with the CEO.

"I told him that my family – my husband and one child – would continue living in Helsinki for a period. At the end of the interview, he asked me the age of my child," she said.

She said she then answered that her child was ten years old.

"Telanne told me that a ten year old is too young to manage without a mother. I was penalized for my motherhood," she told SK.

She added that Telanne later told her that he did not choose her for the position because she was "abandoning her family".

CEO: Sorry for the misunderstanding

Alma Media CEO Kaj Telanne says SK's reporting of Anttikoski's side of the story provided a false picture of her status in the recruitment process.

"One of the most important criteria of our recruitment process was the [candidate's] ability to move to the area where the paper is published. I am sorry if the applicant got the wrong impression that parenthood would have been a relevant issue," Telanne explained.

Alma Media's HR director Virpi Juvonen was also in attendance during the interview in question, and she agrees that there was a misunderstanding.

"Anttikoski claims that she was our number one candidate, but the recruiting process was multi-layered and the open search moved through many different channels. It is unfortunate that she was under this perception, but there were still several candidates under consideration," Juvonen told Yle on Saturday.

Professor: "Everything points to discrimination"

The University of Turku's labour law professor Seppo Koskinen told Yle that on the basis of the information provided, the reasons provided by Alma Media for not hiring Anttikoski are not justified.

"Everything that has been said points to discrimination, or even aggravated discrimination. A process like that fulfils all of the criteria of workplace discrimination, in other words, a job applicant had been assigned a different status because of reasons associated with her gender," he tells Yle.

The case is not without precedent. In 2015, Finland's Supreme Court sentenced Telanne to a fine for workplace discrimination after it was determined that he had decided to end the contract of the Lapin Kansa newspaper's chief editor Johanna Korhonen following his discovery that she was married to a woman.

Anttikoski: Hidden obstacles must be exposed

Anttikoski says she was reluctant to make the incident public at first.

"I just told a few people in my inner circle of friends and family and thought that that would be it. But after I had been in my new job for six months, and had been watching the media from the outside for one and a half years, I started to be more bothered," she says.

She says the most important thing for her now is that people will discuss the matter, and that the dialogue engendered by the #metoo campaign will lead to concrete action.

"I would like to see a working life that lived up to the values of equality. I have never been a supporter of women quotas; I think the best candidate should be chosen for every position. But if there are any hidden structures in place, we need to do something about it. I'm not seeking anything for myself."

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