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Women now lead in Finnish political news coverage

The large number of women in leadership roles in Finland has bridged the traditional media gap.

Hallituksen johtoviisikko
The leaders of the five parties in Finland's coalition government in 2019. Since this time, the Centre Party's Katri Kulmuni ( second from left) has been replaced by Annika Saarikko. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Last year, just over half of all mentions of members of parliament in political news coverage in Finland were references to female MPs, with women accounting for 52 percent, according to an analysis by the media monitoring agency Retriever.

The analysed coverage included news reporting on members of the government. If the holders of ministerial portfolios are excluded from the analysis, female MPs were mentioned in only 29 percent of political news items. 45 percent of all the members of the Finnish Parliament are women.

"The female-led government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), which has also attracted international attention, has raised the level of the gender divide in coverage of political news on par with men in Finland. The share of media references to women has been heightened specifically by female cabinet members," says Eevi Alanissi, Retriever's media analysis manager, in a press release.

According to the analysis, the media visibility of government ministers is especially evident in the afternoon tabloid press and the Helsinki daily Helsingin Sanomat, while rank-and-file female MPs are mentioned more often in the provincial media.

Sports coverage lagging behind

In sports news coverage, the gender gap has remained wide, with female athletes mentioned in only 18 percent of media reporting.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was exceptional in many ways, something also reflected in sports news, when almost all competitive events were suspended.

"Journalists also had the opportunity to address issues that normally receive less attention, and the number of feature news items and history stories increased. All of these factors also affect the gender distribution of news coverage," says Alanissi.

According to the analysis, the share of women in sports news was highest in the provincial newspapers and Helsingin Sanomat, and lowest in the commercial television network MTV and afternoon tabloids.

"Valtteri Bottas was the most referenced male athlete with more than 2,400 mentions. Of the women, skier Krista Pärmäkoski was the most covered, but her mentions were only a third of those of Bottas," Alanissi points out.

Retriever’s analysis included approximately 100,000 articles on politics and sports that were published in the top ten domestic media over the past year.

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