Meritocracy, not gender the yardstick for leadership

Sanna Marin

Finland has been in the global spotlight recently with news reports highlighting that four members of its newly formed cabinet, including the country’s prime minister, are females aged below 35 years.

This has been hailed as a triumph for gender equality, women empowerment and youth empowerment.

Certainly, these individuals are an inspiration to women and young people across the world, illustrating that there are no definitive or fixed boundaries to realising one’s goals.

That being said, a certain caution should be applied in interpreting the terms ‘empowerment’ and ‘equality’.

Yes, the leaders of all five major political parties in Finland today are female, but their gender alone is by no means a determining force in their capabilities and skill as politicians.

Li Andersson, the leader of the Left Alliance and the current Minister of Education, had taken on the same portfolio in the previous cabinet.

Maria Ohisalo, the leader of the Green League, has a Masters in Social Sciences and a doctorate in Sociology. She began her tenure as Minister of the Interior in June 2019 and continues in that post.

True empowerment and equality, therefore, do not simply revolve around a perception of those principles being put into action, but instead whether real opportunities have been given to those whose merit justifies the responsibilities bestowed upon them, notwithstanding their age, gender, marital status or social background.

PM Sanna Marin summed this up when she reportedly said, “I have never thought about my age or gender”.

Meritocracy is thus the antithesis of appointments based solely on age or gender, and so too must accountability and maturity follow for those who have been afforded the privilege of leadership and power.

This, no doubt, is something which should have been on the mind of Katri Kulmuni, whose tenure as Minister of Finance was marred in its infancy by a controversy over her Instagram poll as to whether Finland should allow Finnish women linked to the Islamic State to return from Syria.

It is incumbent on those in power to always keep in mind the gravity of their duties and to ensure the utmost respect is shown to their people, for it would be a great irony – and a great disappointment – if leaders widely perceived to be progressive and enlightened, turn out to reflect the reverse.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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