Finland’s new government has changed the game with a new prime minister who is not only the youngest sitting head of state of the world at age 34 but also a woman. Sanna Marin is a trailblazer in the world of politics, which is generally dominated by older men. She leads a coalition of 5 political parties, all headed by women- the majority under 35. Marin replaced Prime Minister Antti Rinne, who was in power for just 6 months before he lost the public’s trust due to his handling of a post-office strike. Prior to becoming the prime minister of Finland, Marin was the minister of transport and communications. Now, as Prime Minister, Marin is an example of growing representation and diversity in politics.
Many of Marin’s peers in Finland’s government are women as well. 47% of parliament are women and 12 out of 19 of Marin’s ministers are women. However, only ⅕ city and municipal managers are women in Finland. But even in Finland, which is ranked 3rd in the world in terms of gender equality and where 47% members of its Parliament are women, Marin does not fit the norm. Raised by a single mother who later was in a relationship with another woman, Marin has described feeling discriminated against in Finland. In the increasingly populist and nationlistic political atmosphere in Europe, Marin uses her experiences and perspective to offer to advocate for underrepresented groups, such as the LGBT+ community. An advocate, however, is not a replacement for someone who truly represents a group. Although Finland may have many advocates in its government, it still lacks representation.
Marin is the prime minister of a country that, despite having a female leader working toward gender equality, only has 20.7% government ministers who are women (as of January 2019). The government still lacks diversity. The government of a country should reflect the country’s people. One group of people can not speak for another group. In fact, diversity has been scientifically proven to help progress. Researchers in Norway noticed a direct, causal relationship between women in municipal councils and child care coverage. Local councils in India found that areas with women led councils had 62% more drinking water projects than areas with men led councils.
We need to ensure that everyone gets a seat at the table. The election of Sanna Marin is proof that the world of politics is becoming more diverse. Still, it’s not enough to have an advocate for underrepresented groups in government. Equal representation leads to a better country. We need to work to elect diverse leaders to reflect the diverse world.