Why Iceland is the best situate in the world to be a woman

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Since 1975, the Nordic country has fired the trail in gender equality and now, from infancy to maternity, women and girls enjoy a progressive life. But how did they achieve it?

Rebekka is so tiny that, even on her tiptoes, arms aloft, she cannot reaching. So her coach hoists her up to the unvarnished wooden monkey prohibit. One, two, three, her classmates count. She hangs on, determinedly. When she reaches 10, she hops to the ground. I am strong, she hollers proudly.

Its an ordinary morning for this single-sex class of three-year-olds at Laufsborg nursery school in Reykjavik. No dolls or cup-cake decorating on the lesson proposal here. Instead, as Margrt Pla lafsdttir, the schools founder, tells me: We are learning[ our girls] to use their expres. We are learning them in physical forte. We are learning them in courage.

Its a fascinating approach to education. And a popular one. In a country of exclusively 330,000 beings, “theres” 19 such primary and nursery schools, entitling girls from an early age.

For the past six years old, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forums gender spread index and looks likely to do so again this week. The Economist recently mentioned Iceland the worlds good place for working women in comparison, the UK came in at No. 24. lafsdttirs philosophy seems to sit well with the nations progressive attainments, but her system of schools has been going for less than 20 times. So, if preschoolers trained in feminism arent the reason for this gender success narrative, what is?

History may provide us with clues. For centuries, this seafaring people females remained at home as their husbands traversed the atlantic provinces. Without humankinds at home, females played the roles of farmer, hunter, designer, make. They oversaw household business and were crucial to the countrys ability to prosper.

The Daughters of Reykjavik are a feminist rap collective who rap about gender issues. Image: ITV News

By 1975, Icelandic females were fed up. It wasnt exactly that they werent being properly paid for their effort, they also were sick of the limited availability of political image: exclusively nine females has in the past prevailed benches in assembly. So, against the background of the global feminist movement, Icelands females decided to take situations into their own hands.

An outpouring of women on to the streets was, by then, a well-trodden anatomy of activism. In 1970, tens of thousands of women had protested on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In the UK, that same year, 20,000 females marched in Leeds against discriminatory wages. But what prepared Icelands day of affirm on 24 October 1975 so effective was the number of women who participated. It was not just the impact of 25,000 females which, at the time, was a fifth of the girl population that amassed on the streets of Reykjavik, but the 90% of Icelands female person who went on all-out professional and domestic ten-strike. Schoolteachers, nannies, office workers, housewives put down tools and didnt go to work, afford childcare or even cook in their kitchens. All to substantiate how indispensable they were.

Thordis Loa Thorhallsdottir, CEO of a tourism company, was on the streets that day: I was 10 at the time, and I remember it very clearly, standing there with my mother, engaging. I can still feel the crowd and the influence that was there. The big theme was that if females dont duty, the whole community is paralysed the whole society.

Grassroots activism at such a proportion unsurprisingly had a significant material blow. Within five years, the two countries had the worlds first democratically elected female chairperson Vigdis Finnbogadottir. Now in her 80 s, this steely-eyed powerhouse tells me of the impact that day of affirm had on her working careers trajectory.

I would never have been elected in 1980 if it hadnt been for the womens day of act because when my predecessor announced that he was not going to stand again, the tones were immediately sounded: now we have to have a woman among the candidates.

Iceland is a very good place to be a woman. Image: Loftur sgeirsson/ Reykjavik City Museum

Other landmarks soon followed. An all-female registered political party the Womens Alliance was supported. More females were elected to assembly; by 1999, more than a third of MPs were women.

And then, in 2000, parental leave legislation is entered into result: whichevery person I spoke to highlighted this moment as key to Icelands march to the top of the gender-equality table. Today, every parent receives three months paid leave that is non-transferable. Mothers then have an additional three months to share as they like.

Because the pay is significant 80% of salary up to a ceiling of 2,300 a few months and because its on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, 90% of Icelandic fathers take up their paternal leave. This patch of social engineering has had a profound impact on humankinds as well as women. Not exclusively do females return to work after giving birth faster than before, they return to their pre-childbirth working hours faster, more. Research shows that, after participate in the three months leave, fathers continue to be significantly more involved in childcare and do more housework. Sharing the parental responsibilities and errands from the beginning, it seems, makes a difference.

Its a good place to be a woman, adds Thorhallsdottir. And it is. Almost 80% of Icelandic females duty. Thanks to mandatory quotums, almost half of board members of registered fellowships are now females, while 65% of Icelands university students and 41% of MPs are female.

Yet, females I fulfilled on my tour were also clear that the two countries is still a long way to go. They still have less financial influence than humankinds exclusively 22% of directors are ladies; exclusively 30% of experts on Tv are women and, overall, humankinds pay 14% more. Icelands register on all of these figureheads is better than most countries; in the UK, womens hourly offer is 18% less than men.

It is the gender pay gap that puzzles me the most. How can it be that it is still so significant given the huge tries the state has put into relieving the mummy retribution? Not only when it comes to parental leave, but with heavily subsidised nursery schools and after-school caution?

Explanations vary: from females going into less well-paid professions, to the penalty paid for making part-time that weve found in the UK as well, to the time it takes for employers implicit gender biases to shift.

Steiney Skuladottir, one of Reykjavkurdtur( or the Daughters of Reykjavik) a feminist rap collective who rap about gender issues gives the blamed in part on women distaste to ask for adequate pay compensation. Fellow rapper Bloer Johanusdottir concurs. Its like we cant be egotistical. We are supposed to be modest.

Back at the school, lafsdttir has this to say: If you are learning from a young age “that youre not” going your rightful share, if you are teach and trained in waiting, what do you expect?

The Icelandic government has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2022. And the women of the two countries continue to be highly organised and socially mindful; an marvelous one- one-third of Icelands females are members of a Facebook group ironically mentioned Beauty Tips in which they actively consider gender issues.

History teaches us that progress doesnt come about in a vacuum and that grassroots distres plus investing in politics is a really powerful catalyst for change. In Iceland, it seems that they have both. In spades.

Noreena Hertz is economics editor of ITV News. Her report from Reykjavik, On Assignment, airs at 10.40 pm on Tuesday on ITV .

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