Iceland is Taking Steps in the Right Direction for Gender Equality

Iceland is Taking Steps in the Right Direction for Gender Equality

Sarah Tooley

In the pursuit of equality for women in the workplace, the island country Iceland is making significant strides. As of January 1st, legislation has gone into effect requiring Icelandic businesses to provide valid documentation that both male and female employees are equally compensated for their work. Discrimination of wage distribution based on gender or race alone was previously illegal in Iceland— as in many other countries, like the United States— since the early 1960s. What makes this legislation more progressive is the fact that it has greater weight to enforce these previous anti-discrimination wage mandates. There is no more need for the government to rely on citizens themselves to report the discrimination, rather posing daily fines on the companies that choose not to comply.

The introduction of the legislation came as part of Iceland’s commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8th of last year after decades of momentous push by Nordic women. Their effort is epitomized in an organized march in October of last year as well in which women workers left their jobs at exactly 2:38 pm to congregate in front of the parliament building. Due to the wage gap, it is at this time, according to local women’s groups and unions, that female employees are working for free for the rest of their shifts.Icelandic Women’s Rights Association board member Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind notes “Women have been talking about this for decades and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more.”

All in all, this progression qualifies Iceland to be ranked the most gender equal country. This is attributed to both Iceland having announced a 40% ‘quota’ for women to be represented on company boards (with more than 50 employees) and Reykjavík announcing plans to eliminate the gender wage gap by the year 2022. Their dynamic and vigorous efforts to improve gender equality contrasts greatly from that of the United States. As of August 30th of last year President Trump blocked an Obama Administration mandate requiring larger companies to provide the federal government with a breakdown of wages of both genders and races to prove equality (or lack thereof). This lack of enforcement leaves little room for corporations to be held accountable in how they compensate their employees due to the lack of accurate documentation available. Despite how much of a standstill the United States is in, Iceland is an emerging example for countries across the globe of the direction that needs to be taken in order to achieve gender equality



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