Iceland’s trailblazing journey to close the gender pay gap

According to the 2018 global Index, Iceland received an overall Social Progress Index score of 90.24 points, ranking second in the world. In specific dimensions, Iceland scored 97.51 points in Basic Human Needs, 91.81 points in Foundations of Wellbeing and 81.39 points in Opportunity. The country achieved 81.19 points in the Inclusiveness component and 87.53 points in Personal Freedom and Choice. Iceland has consistently topped the global Index in almost all dimensions and components and has remained in the highest tier of countries for the past five years.


On January 1st, 2018, the country made it illegal to pay men more than women, a disheartening inequality that exists in almost every nation. With mandatory quotas, almost half of board members in companies are now women, while 65% of Iceland’s university students and 41% of parliament members are female. In the educational realm, the component of Access to Advanced Education has increased over the past five years. Seen in the 2018 global Index, Iceland’s Access to Advanced Education increased to 61.91 points, compared to 57.79 points in 2014. 98.68% of children are enrolled in primary school. By ensuring that every child obtains an education, Iceland is teaching the youngest generation about gender equality; paving the way to close the gender pay gap in the future. Worldwide, on average, women make just 63 percent of what men earn. In the past few years, Iceland has closed more than 85% of its overall gender gap, and there has been an increase in the number of female legislators, senior officials and managers in government. Young women are encouraged to pursue political or educational roles from a young age. The population of this Nordic Island is small: only 357,050 people, yet it is the first country in the world to ban pay discrimination on the basis of gender. Icelandic companies and government agencies employing more than 25 individuals must obtain government certification of their equal pay policies. If they do not prove this certification, they face hefty fines.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s second female Prime Minister, has implemented a pay standard so that by 2022, men and women in public institutions and private companies will receive comparable salaries for equal work. One significant reform that the Prime Minister has established is the gender quota legislation to ensure women are fairly represented on company boards. She states, “It’s okay to be a woman in politics and not try to become a man. People try to become like men… because the system was created by men. But in my experience, it’s very good to do things differently.” Iceland ranks high in the indicators of equality of political power by gender, property rights for women and women’s average years in school. Katrín Jakobsdóttir states that she will continue to fight for workplace equality and closing the gender pay gap. As a mother of three boys, she believes gender equality and sexual harassment should be discussed openly at a young age.


Source: Iceland Monitor

By instilling gender values of inclusiveness and openness in the youngest generation, the country is on track to close the gender pay gap by 2030. Iceland has created a unique child rearing plan that teaches toddler boys compassionate skill traits, while teaching young girls assertiveness and confidence. Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, the founder of Laufásborg nursery in Reykjavik, states “we are training our girls to use their voice. We are training them in physical strength. We are training them in courage.” Other ways the country has demonstrated this force of gender equality is by displaying powerful women in the media, who are stepping up to change the world for the better. “Women of Iceland,” an artistic project by Ralph Reutimann, features intimate photographs and personal interviews of courageous women leading the way to create a world of complete gender equality and women leaders. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first woman President of Iceland and the first democratically elected woman in the world, offers inspiration advice to young females: “the greatest joy in life is being alive, offering the best of yourself to society: your honesty, ambition, mind and love for people. Being curious and wanting to use your eyes and ears will make you what you are.” Her message, along with other women featured in the project, promotes women to stand up, lead others and maintain a civically active life. This artistic project will continue to be an inspiration to Icelandic females, and individuals around the world.


Source: What Can The Women of Iceland Teach us About Leadership?

Iceland’s reforms and mandatory quotas can be used as an example for countries that are dealing with gender inequality issues. Through the help of the Social Progress Index, we can guide policymakers around the world to create improvements for women. In the municipality of Kopavogur, a localized Social Progress Index is currently used by the government to examine what life is truly like for its residents, and the areas where improvements are necessary. The SPI used in Kopavogur will help the community, and the country, achieve the SDGs. “We need to make sure that men and women have equal opportunity in the workplace,” said Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson. “It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.” This responsibility should be shared by every other nation, as well.


Stay tuned for the 2019 Global Index which will be announced soon. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest information!

Additionally, please follow the What Works Summit, which takes place in Iceland on April 1-3, 2019. The summit will unite leaders from business, government, and civil society. Through focused case studies, debate and interactive workshops, participants will leave with new tools and innovative solutions, along with a strengthened network and prospective partners to help drive social change. We have also created pre- and post-summit sessions which will delve deeper into gender equality and social progress in the Nordic region, and how we can implement their reforms and policies in other countries.


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