Finland: equality through language?

The Finnish language contains many job titles that clearly refer to men. The daily Aamulehti wants to stop using these titles on the basis that they discriminate against women. While the move has prompted a heated debate among opponents of such changes in the country, Finnish commentators are lavish in their praise.

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Aamulehti (FI) /

Choice of words influences our thinking

It's the little steps that lead to real change, Aamulehti writes in justification of its decision to stop using gender-specific job titles:

“Many people might find the issue insignificant, and criticism is understandable. Because there are much bigger issues regarding equal rights than a few job titles. Nevertheless we want to draw attention to the problem, because change requires various elements. Language is a way of ordering the world. It determines our thinking and steers human perceptions, sometimes taking them in unintended directions. Newspaper articles must not reinforce the idea that a particular job or activity is more for males or females.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

A step towards more equality

Helsingin Sanomat also sees good reasons for the initiative:

“In Finland there's a high level of equality. In some areas we're even pioneers. Nevertheless there are still many views on gender roles that still need to change. For example, in comparison with many EU countries the job market in Finland is strongly divided into male and female sectors. ... Gender-specific job market segregation is a major reason for the pay gap between men and women. The idea of gender-specific professions develops in school and at home, but it's also present in language. ... If we can change these perceptions even a little by adapting job descriptions to today's world, it would be a simple step towards more equality.”