While America's highest office — the presidency — remains elusive to women, Finland has just elected its third female premier. Even more impressive, 34-year-old Sanna Marin, who was sworn into office on December 10, 2019, is the youngest prime minister in Finland's history, and the world's youngest sitting government head. Prior to this, that honor belonged to New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern, who was 37 years old when she took office in October 2017.
Ms. Marin, who belongs to the Social Democratic Party of Finland, will form a coalition government with four other parties, which — you guessed it— are also led by women, three of whom are younger than 35! Katri Kulmuni, 32, head of the Centre Party, will take on the role of Finance Minister, while Maria Ohisalo, 34, of the Green League, will serve as Finland's Interior Minister. Rounding up the female-dominated cabinet will be Left Alliance chairwoman Li Andersson, 32, as the Education Minister, and Swedish People's Party leader Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, who will continue her previous role as the country's Justice Minister.
Ms. Marin's achievement is even more remarkable because of her modest upbringing and lack of political connections. Born and raised in a low-income household in Helsinki, she is the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and university. Her political career began in 2013 as the City Council head of Tampere, where she currently resides with her partner Markus Raikkonen and their almost-two-year-old daughter Emma. The young leader's ability to fearlessly tackle difficult issues made her extremely popular with the citizens and resulted in a rapid rise through the ranks of her Social Democratic Party. Prior to the election, Ms. Marin, who has been a member of Finland's Parliament since 2015, served as the Minister of Transport and Communications.
Well known for her progressive views, the newly-elected leader is expected to focus her efforts on climate change, equality, and social welfare. In a tweet following her election, Ms. Marin said, “Finland will not be finished in four years, but it can get better. That’s what we’re working on. I want to build a society where every child can become anything, and every person can live and grow in dignity.”
Though the world is celebrating her age and gender, Ms. Marin downplays their importance. She told reporters, "I have never thought about my age or gender, I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate."
We hope that young, dynamic leaders like Ms. Marin and Ms. Ardern will pave the way for more female representation in both the government and private sectors worldwide.
Resources: NPR.org, Vox.com, Theguardian.com