Women In Iceland Walk Out Of Work To Protest The Gender Pay Gap

Posted on October 26, 2016 in Cake News, Women Empowerment

By Cake Staff:

The women of Iceland just held a massive public demonstration to end the gender gap in their country. The protests come shortly after two significant other women-led protests this month – one in Poland, against an abortion ban, and another in Argentina against the brutal rape of a minor.

Of all the countries in the world, Iceland does remarkably well when it comes to gender equality. Women are 65% of the student population in universities, and occupy a sizeable number of positions in parliament. The country has also closed its health and education gap, and back in May, the World Economic Forum predicted that Iceland would be the first to close the gender gap. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Which is why thousands of women gathered in the national capital Reykjavík on October 24, 2016, to demand the same. And they had a whole history bolstering them. On this same date 41 years ago, around 25,000 women staged a massive protest that would become the country’s first, historic demand for gender equality. The outcome of that demonstration was the formation of the Gender Equality Council in 1976, and the passing of the Gender Equality Act.

Of course, the women of Iceland knew the fight was hardly over. Which is why they organized strikes in 2005 and 2010, with women walking out from work at 2.08pm and 2.25pm respectively. These times represent that part of the 8-hour working day after which women stop getting paid the same as men – that is if wages were translated into the number of hours put in, men would work from 9am to 5pm, while women would be done much earlier. However, despite there being inequality in pay, both men and women work equal hours. This year, Icelandic women walked out at 2.38pm, and the increase in these timings over the years indicates that the country has in fact been closing the gender-gap.

Currently, there is a 14% difference between men and women’s pay in full-time jobs in Iceland – slightly higher in comparison to Poland’s 10%, but much lower than Germany’s 22% or India’s 27%. Despite Iceland being lauded as one of the best places in the world for women, the difference in pay exists because of how childbirth and family responsibilities affect women’s careers. Mothers often return to work and get paid lesser than they originally were. Further, women are not employed equally across professions – construction, manufacturing and fishing being some areas where women just don’t get hired.

Creating more jobs for women in all kinds of fields could help address the gap. And so would implementing equality-measures in all workplaces.

Icelandic women have been known to take a stand for things that matter. The 1975 protests show as much. Their first female (and queer!) Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir pushed for gender equal policies during her term. In fact, very recently, Miss Iceland Arna Ýr Jónsdóttir shut down body shamers at the Miss Grand International beauty pageant. One can safely say that the country’s level of awareness about gender equality is something we’d like to see everywhere.

It certainly would be great to see Iceland show finally close the gender gap, sustainably, and lead the way for all other nations in the world.

Featured image for representational purposes only.

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