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Focusing especially on women during recruitment (TAS 474/2018, issued 3 December 2018)

Several persons have requested the Ombudsman for Equality to investigate whether Valmet Automotive Oy’s recruitment activities that focus especially on women are in accordance with the Act on Equality between Women and Men. Based on the information that has been passed on to the Ombudsman for Equality, Valmet Automotive Oy has stated in some newspaper interviews that their new campaign has been designed to target women.

The provisions in the Equality Act

According to the Equality Act, each employer must promote gender equality in a purposeful and systematic manner. For example, employers must act in such a way that job vacancies attract applications from both women and men. In addition, employers must promote the equitable recruitment of women and men in the various jobs and create equal opportunities for them for career advancement.

The Equality Act prohibits gender-based discrimination. However, any planned specific actions that are temporary in nature and intended to promote actual gender equality and implement the goal of the Equality Act are not considered gender-based discrimination.  This type of procedure is, at times, necessary within a specific scope for the achievement of actual equality. Positive special treatment in employment is used to promote the inclusion of an equal ratio of women and men in different tasks and create equal opportunities for career advancement.

Assessment of the case

The Ombudsman for Equality requested a statement from Valmet Automotive Oy on the recruitment measures that were targeted towards women. In its statement, Valmet Automotive noted that the company aims to use different measures to increase female interest towards car manufacturing by e.g. participating in the Osaava Nainen (“Skilled Woman”) trade fair. The company hopes to use these measures to increase the share of female applicants to different car factory tasks. Valmet does not intend to advertise these jobs as being only available to women, and only its recruitment activities are being targeted especially towards women. The company stated that male applicants will be taken into account in the same way as female applicants during the employee selection process, and that the gender of the applicant does not play a role during the employee selection process.

The Ombudsman for Equality noted that employers may use their job advertisements to encourage applicants who represent an underrepresented gender in a workplace to apply for a job without the need of a specific plan. A job advertisement can also be used to encourage applications from representatives of all genders when an employer wants to encourage people of all genders to apply for a position.

Finnish working life is strongly segregated, i.e. the job market is divided into fields that feature a majority of men or women. The car manufacturing industry is traditionally seen as a male-dominated field, which is evident in the gender division present in both Valmet’s staff and the applications that Valmet receives. According to a survey conducted by Valmet, 70 % of the company’s employees are male. Men also typically account for 80 % of all job applicants. The Ombudsman for Equality concluded that, according to the Equality Act, employers should promote equality by dismantling the segregation present in working life and by promoting the equal placement of women and men in different tasks.

The Ombudsman for Equality concluded that by advertising the jobs at the car factory especially towards women, Valmet aims to promote gender equality in working life in accordance with the purposes of the Equality Act. Since female employees represent a minority group in Valmet Automotive’s car factory, the employer is allowed to hope for more female applicants without violating the Equality Act.