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Monday 23 August 2010

If Women Ruled the World

President Tarja Halonen
Mari Kiviniemi
PM Mari Kiviniemi
If women ruled the world, things would all be different, right?

In June this year, Finland elected its second female Prime Minister. This came on top of already having the country's first female President. Hardly earth-shattering, you might say - we are not talking about a global superpower after all.

Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with the details of Finland's political shenanigans (this lot have had more practice at coalition governments than the current UK coalition have had hot dinners and to be honest I don't understand the slightest bit about it). No, what really interested me is what having both a female head of government and a female head of state actually means for the day-to-day running of the country. Is it noticeable? 

Frankly, I don't really know. Having recently spent two weeks on holiday there doesn't really give me any sort of expertise on the subject. I would hardly say there was a significant "women are ruling this country" vibe, but then Finland is a pretty different sort of culture anyway. The truth of the matter is that Finland is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world (coming 3rd overall in the 2007 Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum, and having recently been declared Best Country in the World by Newsweek, based on a number of factors, one of which was Gender Equality- the UK coming 14th overall).

Given all of that maybe we should not expect to see too much change in Finland with both a female head of state and head of government. 

Let's take a look back at Britain's first and only dalliance with a female Prime Minister. Love or hate her (and she certainly seems to polarise opinion), there is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher certainly made an impact on the country. Whether she made a positive impact on women in politics is another question. Just a simple google search for this article seems to point to disappointment that her ascension to power did little or nothing to encourage more women to enter politics.  At one point Thatcher said: "I owe nothing to Women's Lib."

Every now and then for the tiniest split second, I get the mad idea in my head that I would like to enter politics - to make a difference and somehow do "my bit". Of course, if I think about it for more than that split-second, I realise that what I really mean is that I feel I should do more in my community - "politics with small p". The thought of party politics is pretty abhorrent to me. I don't think I'm thick-skinned enough, and I'm too easily swayed by other people's arguments! From talking to my friends and acquaintances about it, I think a lot of women feel the same.  

It won't stop me wondering though - what would it really be like if women ruled the world? Yes, it probably would be different, but are we really so naive as to think that all the problems of the human race would be solved? I for one doubt it - after all, when we can get so caught up in what is the right or wrong way to have and bring up children (see here for Gappy's excellent recent post on a similar subject if you have not already done so), you do have to wonder how we are ever going to agree amongst ourselves what the answer to society's ills are.

I don't know the answer. The fatalist in me thinks that the human race would probably still bumble along in more or less the same way - always genetically inclined to argue, fight and generally make a mess of the planet. The optimist in me would like to think that things would be that little bit better - I just wonder whether we will ever find out.

Which side of the fence do you fall on?


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