MDI has launched a discussion on ‘feminist regional policy’. At the webinar launch event on the 16th of June a gathering of around 50 regional developers discussed issues such as equality in working life, access to education, demographic trends and the need for diversified investments. Feminist regional policy is here characterised as regional development for a new age with an emphasis on the themes of equality, participation and ‘charm’. The intention is for MDI to take a closer look at the hard and soft attraction factors that create this new conjuncture from a feminist theory perspective.
MDI’s specialists Kaisa Lähteenmäki-Smith and Eero Holstila led the webinar discussion for the participants. They brought regional policy and its key principles into critical view. Discussions also encompassed issues such as the redefinition of industrial policy, the segregated labour market in Finland and feminist vitality policy, a perspective developed by Kirsi Siltanen, from which Eero highlighted the particular issue of agency. The need for the genuine involvement of local residents clearly emerged in the discussion as this has a clear impact on decision-making.
Emilia Kangas from Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences provided an overview of equality in Finland in the 2020s and at the same time raised the issue of the segregated labour market and the effects of gender stereotypes and their consequences in working life. Kangas mentioned the advancement of women to management positions as one of the biggest challenges in Finland. At the global level, Finland is a model country for equality, but significant challenges nevertheless remain.
“Although Finland has a woman prime minister, equality is not complete. There are still many challenges in working life, public administration management and career development. If the leadership of the work community is always similar, the perspectives of leadership become limited. If there are different people in the lead, there are also broader perspectives on leadership. There is no reason to rest on one’s laurels because there is plenty to do in many areas “
– Emilia Kangas, equality researcher, SeAMK
Following Emilia in the programme came a thought-provoking panel discussion. The participants were the Chairman of the Finnish Centre Youth Hanna Markkanen, Kajaani City Councilor (the Greens) Silja Keränen, Mayor of Pyhtää Jouni Eho and Mayor of Lapinjärvi Tiina Heikka. The panel discussion was hosted by MDI’s own Aleksi Koivisto. The panel discussion was wide-ranging and reflected deeply on equality both in the field of regional development generally and in everyday work life.
“Equality has not been forgotten in regional development, it just hasn’t always been thought of separately. We all know what the demographic trends look like. How then can we positively impact them? If we really want to develop the area, we have to look more closely at the primary factors and root causes. Therefore, Kainuu and Kajaani are interested in finding out which attractiveness factors would impact young women’s decisions to return to Kainuu. The aim is to carry out a study and a pilot of a review of feminist regional policy in Kainuu. ”
– Silja Keränen, Kajaani City Councilor (the Greens)
Attracting returnees was seen as an important tool in remedying demographic change in rural areas. Heikka, Mayor of Lapinjärvi, told the audience about the people-oriented participation model that has been developed in Lapinjärvi over several years. Now, participation takes place already in the preparation of things and decisions, participation is more impressive and it also promotes equality in the municipality.
Markkanen, from the Finnish Centre Youth pointed out that many young people would like to return to their home areas after their studies, but concerns about employment in their own field are common. Much work therefore needs to be done to increase multi-locality and place-independent work.
The discussion also highlighted the importance of leadership and pioneering in the promotion of equality and diversity for which, once again, significant work needs to be done. Finally, Jouni Eho shared the principles and values of his leadership which are trust, commitment, caring, learning and diversity. Diversity and its realisation reverberated among the webinar participants as a strong ‘take-away’ message: the realisation of diversity must therefore be given attention in everyday work and must not be overshadowed by mainstream themes such as economic growth and employment.
We would like to thank all of the speakers and attendees who actively participated in the discussion!