Gender Equality in Iceland

October 15, 2017

I am a huge fan of watching documentaries.  Ask me the latest and greatest blockbuster in the movie theaters, and I couldn’t tell you even one title.  But sit me down in front of an HBO documentary or one that comes highly recommended, and I’ll be glued to the tv and then frantically googling information afterwards to learn more on the subject.  A friend told me once I’m too cerebral for her, but this is what I thrive on, and once I get a topic or subject in mind, I go down the rabbit hole for hours, even days, researching and learning more.

One such documentary that continually popped up in my Facebook feed this year, was “Where to Invade Next,” by Michael Moore.  I have seen a few of Michael Moore’s previous documentaries, and although a controversial figure, I enjoy his slightly dry humor.  The premise of this film, was a quest to find how other countries are excelling in areas where the United States is failing.  He profiled the school system in Finland, the prison system in Norway, and the debt-free education system in Slovenia.  What struck me the most, was when the film took a detour to Iceland and profiled their stance on gender equality and women’s rights.  I was shocked to learn the first democratically-elected female president in the world, was from Iceland!  Her name, Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, was a divorced, single mother, who ran for president of Iceland and shocked the world when she won.

Vigdís Finnbogadottír

Vigdis is quick to offer credit to the female population of Iceland for her win in 1980.  Just 5 years prior to her election, on October 24, 1975, Icelandic women staged a nation-wide walkout and protest where about 90% of all women across the country, walked off their jobs and out of their homes to protest and bring awareness to how much women contribute to society both in the home and workforce.  It has come to be known as Women’s Day Off and its anniversary is celebrated throughout the country each year.  Just as I was planning my trip to Iceland, I realized that we will be in Iceland during the anniversary.

Gender equality is a topic I am highly interested in, however a modern European national such as Iceland was not even on my radar for achieving such a monumental feat as mandatory gender equality.  It’s not a commonly known fact about Vigdis’ presidency or the laws Iceland has enacted to enforce gender equality.  Since Vigdis’ reign as president, the country has passed laws requiring businesses that have more than 15 employees, to document and prove they pay women equally in the workforce.  Since the 1960’s women have reached close to equal footing in the workforce in population, steadily growing over the years to near balanced numbers.  And in 2009, the percentage of women elected members of parliament, surpassed that of men elected.

Iceland certainly is leading the way in the gender equality fight, and they are seeing positive results because of it.  I found kismet played a role in discovering Iceland’s presence at the top of the list for most gender progressive country in the world and for my upcoming trip to Iceland.  It inspired me to formulate a portrait project profiling Icelandic women.  Stay tuned…


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