The Battle of The Sexes: Have Finland Won The War?
The Battle of The Sexes: Have Finland Won The War?
Posted on February 14th 2020 by Laura Armstrong
For a long time, women have been encouraged to smash the glass ceiling at work and achieve the success of their male colleagues… while also being doting, hands-on mothers. There has long been a debate over whether women can ‘have it all’. Can they have an amazing career and still be home to put the kids to bed?
There has been a lot of conversation on the topic of career vs. family women, but is it time we stop putting the focus just on women? Where is the ‘equality’ in that?
Finland seems to have done just that. Could their new law around parental leave address the fundamental issues of gender roles in the home?
What is Finland’s new policy on parental leave?
Finland’s new system does not distinguish between maternity and paternity. Finland’s recent decision gives all parents the same parental leave. Fathers and co-parents can now enjoy the same leave rights as their child-bearing partners. This gives both parents more flexibility.
Previously, fathers received 2.2 months before the child turns two. Maternity leave was 4.2 months with a further 6 months of parental leave that can be shared. Under the new plans, each parent will be given 6.6 months’ leave (pregnant women get an additional month’s allowance). To add to that, single parents can use both allowances.
Fathers can take time out to stay home with the kids while women who have given birth no longer feel forced to ‘stay home with the baby.’ They now have a choice: a decision they can make together as a partnership, rather than being forced into stereotypical gender roles the government decides for them.
It would seem Finland has cracked one of the biggest problems in gender equality. It’s a decision many of us are hoping will be replicated by more governments.
Maternity vs. Paternity?
Have Finland got the right idea with removing the distinction between maternity and paternity leave altogether?
The focus on greater leave for women reinforces traditional gender roles and the idea that women are primarily responsible for child-rearing. Finland now only refers to “parental leave” offering no distinction between the two. It will be interesting to see how this starts to impact attitudes toward women who choose to work and men who choose to stay home.
What does parental leave look like around the world?
Maternity, paternity and parental leave differ vastly across Europe and the US. In the UK, mothers can take up to a year of maternity leave but only 12 weeks of that is at full pay. The US does not provide any paid parental leave with one in four women going back to work within just 10 days of giving birth. With bills to pay, the fear of losing your job with prolonged time off can create a sense of urgency to get back to work.
It seems the Nordic states are light years ahead in gender equality. Maternity leave in Denmark gives new mothers 18 weeks leave at full pay and fathers can take two weeks off during that time. After that, they have 32 weeks to split between them.
Have Finland got gender equality right?
Finland has long been a pioneer of gender equality - becoming the first country to give voting and parliamentary rights to women in 1906.
Since 2003, the Finnish government has been working on projects to promote gender equality and increase the number of women in politics. However, before we all plan to emigrate to Finland, it is a good idea to look at why they look after their citizens so well.
While greater equality, low crime and pollution, plus a stunning landscape are all amazing pros to living in Finland, it is also considered by some to be the most depressed nation in the world.
A depression epidemic means the government is keen to make the country a happier place - with initiatives such as increased and equal parental leave.
What can we learn from this to create a better balance between work and family?
The rise of flexible working
Flexible working is quickly becoming the norm. When millennials entered the workforce, they came with a whole host of different expectations. Now the largest generation in the US labor force, companies are starting to adapt to the millennial desire for flexible working. As this generation becomes parents, the conversation around parental leave and flexibility is coming to the fore. It is time to capitalize on this and see how it can work for you.
What would flexible working look like for you? Whether you would like part-time hours or home-working options, have that discussion with your boss to find out what is available to you. Do not be deterred by fear of being seen as awkward or “not a team player” - as employee loyalty drops, companies are keen to hold onto their talent as long as possible. Supporting those workers through starting a family is a great way to earn their loyalty.
Mentoring for parents at work
There is a lot of change, uncertainty, and upheaval when you become a parent. Having support from colleagues who are in the same boat can be a huge help.
PwC has a “Mentor Moms” program which offers peer support through all stages of parenthood. It would be great to make that more equal and open it up to the dads too!
You could set up a peer support group at your company, where new parents can get together and share their experiences.
Global attitudes to flexible working and parental leave are starting to change. Hopefully better and more equal leave rights for parents are not too far away. In the meantime, take charge of the things in your control to make navigating the road into parenthood easier, for both moms and dads. Talk to your partner about what they would like to do - stay home more, work more. Then look at the opportunities that are available to you.
Pave your own way
Some careers, unfortunately, do not lend themselves easily to flexible working. For example, nurses cannot carry out patient care from home! If this applies to you, there are still options you can consider.
Could you cut your days down and make more money elsewhere? It would allow you to fit your career around your children and save on child care costs too.
Think about your skills. Not just those directly connected to your job - look at the transferable skills and qualities required for the job you do. If we go back to nursing, “I know how to check for signs of illness” could become “I am good at caring for people and helping them get better”. That is a skill that opens up more flexible career paths, like therapy. You would get the same satisfaction of helping others, while spending more time with your family… and potentially earning more money!
Marisa Peer’s Rapid Transformational Therapy™ (RTT) program can be studied from home, and once you have qualified, you can carry out consultations and sessions online too. The course can be completed in as little as three months and you do not need to have a background in therapy to enroll as the training provides you with everything you need to set up and achieve a successful career.
Louise Hateley tells how becoming an RTT therapist has allowed her to spend more time with her family.
If you are interested in finding out more about RTT therapy, sign up for the free masterclass to learn all about the course from Marisa herself.