At the start of July, my news feed threw this story at me, about how Finland has recently considered excluding women from voluntary military service.
Finland and voluntary military service? Surely a pretty minor skirmish in the grand scheme of gender equality? Yes and no. From the very local we can so often discern a universal picture.
One of the young women interviewed is quoted as saying “One of the best things about women in the forces is their strong motivation”.
So here’s that old chestnut, repeated from the C-Suite right down to, well, female voluntary military service personnel: in every walk of traditionally male-dominated life, women feel they need to prove something.
And in Defence Minister Jussi Niinisto’s words – “We have to find savings somewhere” – we find another oft-repeated truth. Which is that, for some people, women are still optional box-ticking extras in certain sectors. Niinisto went on to reject the idea himself – but still it is telling that it took reflection to do so; the idea of cutting costs by ostracising women from voluntary military service came to him instinctively.
All this, too, in a country that enjoys a good reputation for gender equality.
When it comes to gender equality, we are doing so much good work on and near the surface; it is, however, going to take a long time for it to filter down to the depths, for people’s instincts to evolve, for unconscious bias to fade away and for gender-positive actions to be taken spontaneously rather than as a result of self-censorship.
We have to keep on noticing unconscious bias and keep on pointing it out when we do – tiring, I know, but if not us, then who?