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Nearly 40 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment, younger women in particular encounter harassment

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 15.6.2018 9.30
Press release 91

Women experience inappropriate behaviour such as sexual harassment, hate speech and degrading comments related to their gender more often than men.

According to the newest Gender Equality Barometer 2017, 38 percent of women has experienced sexual harassment in the past two years. Especially young women encounter sexual harassment. More than half of women under the age of 35 had experienced sexual harassment in the past two years.

This time, the Gender Equality Barometer specifically asked for the gender of the offender. The results showed that it was predominantly men who subjected women to harassment, whereas men experienced harassment from both women and other men. The barometer now also included questions on gender-related hate speech for the first time. According to the results, 15 percent of women and 8 percent of men had experienced gender-related hate speech.

Over one fourth of women who belonged to a minority group, such as a religious, ethnic, language or sexual minority, had experienced hate speech. The fear of violence and hate speech affects people’s daily activities. One fourth of women and one fifth of men, who feared violence, had cut down on their evening outings due to this fear.

“The results related to sexual harassment and hate speech are an outright disgrace for Finland,” stated Minister Annika Saarikko, who is responsible for equality, in her presentation opening the event where the barometer was published. “Inappropriate behaviour, hate speech and harassment must be weeded out of our society.” It is the task of policy-makers to see to it that legislation is adequate, but there is much for us to do as individuals as well. Do we stand by silently when young girls are harassed on the bus or do we shrug our shoulders at hate speech? The change starts from each of us, our family and friends.”

A great disparity observed between attitudes towards gender equality and experiences of equality 

The newly published barometer is the sixth of its kind. The first Gender Equality Barometer was completed in 1998. At the level of attitudes, gender equality has been considered important in all the barometers and it has been believed that it is realised well in part, but experiences of the realisation of equality have also highlighted problems. 

Women and men have very different understandings on the realisation of gender equality. Men feel that society is already quite equal, while women believe that there is still much room for improvement. Women also have more experiences than men of inequal treatment in working life.

Around one third of the barometer’s respondents felt that a person belonging to a gender minority such as a trans person or intersex person would likely experience discrimination if they were to work in the same workplace as the respondent.

Gender equality policy development needs made visible in the Gender Equality Barometer

The barometer also highlights equality problems, which must be influenced with work and gender equality policy. Family leave and, in particular, encouraging fathers to use family leave have been gender equality objectives already for quite some time. The barometer’s results demonstrate that people believe that men are also responsible for caring for children. Even so, people working in the private sector believed that it was difficult for men to take family leave more often than those who worked in the public sector. 

The majority (90 percent) of barometer respondents felt that it was necessary for women to take part in politics more actively to facilitate the diversification of political expertise. A growing share of respondents felt that women and men were just as qualified for positions of responsibility in different areas of politics

The barometer was drawn up by Statistics Finland at the commission of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The Centre for Gender Equality Information at the National Institute for Health and Welfare was responsible for the coordination of the barometer project. Nearly 1,700 people were interviewed for the barometer. This time round, the Gender Equality Barometer was revised to a great extent. The questions focused more than previously on the diversity of gender and families, the division of expenses inside a family, as well as on gender-related hate speech and social media. Additionally, more questions were posed to pupils, students and people outside of the labour force. The materials used for the Gender Equality Barometer 2017 report will be open for use by researchers in the future. In addition to this, at the turn of the year six articles will be written on the basis of the barometer’s materials in which the barometer’s content and results will be analysed in more detail.

The Gender Equality Barometer examines the development of gender equality and attitudes towards gender equality, as well as experiences of how equality is realised in the workplace, education and families. The barometer also facilitates the assessment of gender equality policy focus areas and development needs. The Gender Equality Barometer produces nationally and internationally unique data on equality that is not, as such, available elsewhere. 

Gender Equality Barometer 2017:

The previous Gender Equality Barometers were published in 1998, 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2012. Gender Equality Barometer publications starting from 2004 can be viewed at


Senior Officer Päivi Yli-Pietilä, MSAH, tel. +358 2951 63228, [email protected]

Development Manager Mia Teräsaho, Centre for Gender Equality Information (National Institute for Health and Welfare), tel. +358 2952 47864, 
[email protected]

Researcher Henna Attila, Statistics Finland, tel. +358 2955 13378, [email protected]

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