The implementation of gender mainstreaming in Finland can be considered to date back to 1980–1985, when the Finnish government’s first Action Plan for Gender Equality stated that promoting gender equality was a task for every administrative unit. Efforts to institutionalise gender mainstreaming as a concept and practice began in the late 1990s, after Finland committed to implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, including the principle of gender mainstreaming.
In 1995, obligatory gender mainstreaming was included in the Act on Equality, requiring that authorities promote equality between women and men in a systematic manner and change circumstances that prevent de facto equality between women and men.
The second Government Action Plan for Gender Equality, which was designed to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, took a proactive approach to gender mainstreaming. Concrete measures mentioned included training for high-level management, production of gender-disaggregated statistics, and the promotion of women’s studies. The most important of the measures was a three-year project to develop mainstreaming methods and practices, as a result of which new gender equality networks were established in the ministries, a pilot gender impact assessment of a legal initiative was carried out, and a glossary of gender-equality concepts was compiled.
Five ministries contributed to the development and promotion of gender mainstreaming through their own pilot projects. After the first pilot projects, gender-mainstreaming methods, practices and tools have been developed mainly in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, which coordinated gender-mainstreaming projects throughout the 2000s.
The European Union (EU) has contributed to the development of gender mainstreaming in Finland, in particular through project funding, which has allowed the central gender-equality agency and ministries to produce materials, design and provide trainings, and establish structures, etc. The EU has also been influential in the integration of gender mainstreaming into particular policy areas, such as regional development, rural development and the activities of the European Social Fund. The requirements for gender mainstreaming in programming documents have encouraged the Finnish authorities to include gender considerations in national strategies and programming documents, as well as in their implementation.
The approach to gender mainstreaming in the Finnish government administration has a dual focus: creating and supporting permanent gender-mainstreaming structures in all ministries, and ensuring the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the key processes of administration (preparation of legislation, budget preparation, performance management, statistics and major projects).
The central gender equality structure, the Gender Equality Unit (TASY), located within the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, is in charge of the preparation, coordination and monitoring of gender mainstreaming in government administration, but the main responsibility for implementation lies with the ministries. Each ministry has an operational gender equality working group that coordinates and monitors gender mainstreaming within the ministry, and since 2012 has been required to have a designated gender-mainstreaming coordinator. The network of gender equality working groups, coordinated by TASY, provides a forum for sharing experience and good practice and identifying and discussing problems.
Laws and policies
Gender mainstreaming obligations and goals are included in several gender-equality arrangements: the Act on Equality between Women and Men; government programmes; the Government Action Plan for Gender Equality 2012–2015, which includes a special component on gender mainstreaming; and the Government Report on Equality between Women and Men. Some ministries also have separate gender mainstreaming action plans, such as the Ministry of Justice.
Methods and tools
Various gender-mainstreaming methods are being used, e.g. gender impact assessment, gender budgeting, sex-disaggregated statistics and capacity-building.