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Finland's Oldest Men's Club Mulls Swinging Doors Open to Women

After stirring a storm with its decision to maintain its male-only status, the 160-year-old institution may ultimately change its mind (and its charter) to usher in female members for the first time in its history.

Following an outcry in Finnish media, the meritorious gentlemen's club Handelsgillet may backtrack on its much-debated decision to keep ladies out, as has been the case throughout the last one and a half centuries, national broadcaster Yle reported.

Former Handelsgillet chairman Bror Krause has surprisingly supported the possibility of changing the group's charter to include women.

"I've discussed the matter with a few of my friends and they also seem to agree that the time is ripe to discuss the issue of [female] members," Krause told Yle, stating that a discussion on what to offer future "brothers and sisters" is ongoing.

This statement may mark a paradigm shift, as the very same Krause, a longtime chairman, during his time at the helm of the organization presided over the decision to specifically exclude female members in 2003. Prior to 2003, the club's membership wasn't male-only, according to the charter, although only men have been Handelsgillet members historically. This decision was made in order to "keep the membership from growing too large."

READ MORE: Finland's 'Female-Only' Island Slated to Open Amid Controversy

Previously, several high-ranking Handelsgillet members supported the idea of a men-only club with a specific sense of camaraderie.

The decision to maintain the status quo, however, was lambasted by Finnish media and various organizations as sexist and chauvinist, with many venturing that it helped maintain the club's "outdated" and "mossy" atmosphere and calling on the club to "open up."

"How is it even possible for Handelsgillet in Helsinki to continue as a men's club? Not living in today's world and not opening up for women? I feel ashamed on behalf of these gentlemen," journalist and blogger Kristina Wikberg tweeted.

​Earlier this year, the Helsinki Bourse Club, another elite and male-only institution, landed in controversy as Pertti Korhonen, a chairman of the telecom company DNA, announced his resignation citing misogyny. The Bourse Club also came under fire for statements seen as controversial in today's Finland, such as "equality doesn't need to apply everywhere."

Helsinki-based Handelsgillet has been running since 1857 and is thus Finland's oldest men's club. The public association has over 1,000 members.

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