Yesterday on the 24th October, 2016 at precisely 14:48 pm then women all around Iceland left their workplace in a show of solidarity. They were protesting at a surprising fact that in Iceland there is still a significant gender pay gap. That there is a gap at all in such a generally progressive country like Iceland is surprising but the amount perhaps even more so – a hefty 17% discrepancy according to Eurostat.
In the capital Reykjavic the women staged a protest at 15:15 pm in the center of the capital, there were many people there from both sexes supporting the protest. The timing is very precise and significant, as it represents the time when women on average stop getting paid when their salaries are compared to men in the exacts same professions.
Their is some hope, believe it or not the gap has been narrowing over the last few year. However women’s groups are frustrated by the slow rate of change and under current progress women’s pay will reach fair parity by the year 2068! The exact date 24th October was chosen as it is an important one in the history of Women’s rights in Iceland. On October 24th 1975, almost 90% of Icelandic women went on strike and mostly headed for the capital to protest against disparity in both pay and benefits between the genders. It is now used as a commemoration date as well as a focus for the protests which are still needed.
Inequality is surprisingly widespread in Iceland, in all sorts of areas not just the pay gap. There are problems in lots of areas of Icelandic life ranging from access to employment, education and indeed political empowerment. Even this can surprise some people especially as Iceland had the world’s first democratically elected female president in 2009 and also the first openly lesbian head of state in 2009.
Iceland does change in response to protests and democratic will unlike some countries, however many encourage the status quo because it suits them. It is in some ways a very conservative country despite electing a lesbian leader. Iceland has been in the news over the last few years for attempting to censor and filter the internet for example leading to many people investing in residential VPN services here to bypass them .