Finland: Gender bias built into selection requirements for company directors
A number of practices indirectly favour the recruitment of men over women onto company boards of directors in Finland.
In investigating obstacles to women's gaining positions on company boards in Finland, a study by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (in Finnish) discovered a number of practices that indirectly favour the recruitment of men over women. First, throughout their careers, women tend to be assigned offered less demanding tasks than men; in addition, they are expected to have a relatively higher level of education in order to be placed on company boards. Second, a technical education is often required of company directors. This requirement is unique in Europe and can be seen as favouring men, who are more likely to have undergone a technical education than women; female directors’ educational backgrounds are – on average – more varied than those of their male colleagues. Third, female directors primarily work in supportive functions, such as communications, human resources, legal services and finance, whereas the more male-dominated business functions are the gateway to gaining board positions. The situation does not seem to be improving greatly over time: the number of women on company boards has risen, but there is still a long way to go to reach the target – set by the European Commission – of a minimum of 40% female representation on corporate boards. Only state-owned companies come close, at 39%; in other types of businesses the figure is as low as 20%.