By almost any metric, Finland, as a country, is thriving. Environmental health? Ranked first in the world, according to the most recent study by Yale’s Center for Environmental Law & Policy. World happiness? Yep, Finland tops the list there too. Frozen 2? Was just released to global audiences on December 7 (which, yes, technically takes place in Norway, but you have to imagine that Finland is reaping at least some of the benefits there, so it counts.)
So what complicated nexus of political, social and economic factors could help explain the Nordic nation’s unqualified success on the world stage? Here’s a hunch: Women are running the damn show over there.
On Monday, Finland’s five party coalition government elected 34-year-old Sanna Marin prime minister. Upon her swearing in on Tuesday, Marin will become the world’s youngest sitting prime minister, and will replace outgoing leader Antti Rinne. Rinne resigned on Tuesday over his handling of a dispute involving the country’s state-owned postal service.
"I have never thought about my age or gender,” Marin reportedly told the Agence France-Presse news agency. When asked about her victory she said, “I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate."
But she's not the only woman in the country leading the way, literally. With Marin heading the government, all of Finland’s five major political parties will now have women at the helm: Katri Kulmuni, 32, leads the Centre Party; Maria Ohisalo, 34, leads the Green League; Li Andersson, 32, leads the Left Alliance; and Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, leads the Swedish People's Party of Finland.
In a tweet celebrating the victory, Alexander Stubb, who served as Finland’s prime minister from 2014 to 2015, wrote that having five women leading the government “shows that #Finland is a modern and progressive country.”
In addition to the gendered element of Tuesday’s political victories, the relative youth of the newly-elected cabinet is also noteworthy. Of the five women now currently heading the five major parties, four are under the age of 35 — underscoring the vitality of a growing, global youth movement in politics, the ripple effects of which have been strongly felt in the United States.
Since the group of four freshman congresswomen known as “the squad” (comprised of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley) rose to national prominence after winning their respective elections in the 2018 primary, the question of age has played an increasingly pivotal role in U.S. politics. Not to mention, women are also running the show at the ongoing impeachment hearings.
Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps the most visible member of the squad, has been particularly vocal about the importance of having young voices serving among America’s elected officials.
"I have spoken in the past about how youth is not an embodiment of age, but of attitude—a willingness to risk for what is right, among others,” Ocasio-Cortez once tweeted. “We also shouldn't be afraid to acknowledge the dearth of young elected officials + those implications."