Why this story matters:
On Jan 1, a new law made it bad business and bad politics to discriminate against working women in Iceland. Companies now must pay a fine if they pay women less than men for doing the same job. Already a leader in most gender equality metrics, Iceland is on track to be the first country in the world to completely eradicate the gender pay gap by 2020.
This news makes it clear that the only thing standing in the way of equal pay is equality everywhere else first.
Iceland sets an example of chronological action that makes progress toward equal pay basically automatic. First, Iceland made sure men were empowered to share the job of raising their kids, which freed up women to work. What followed was a balanced political representation (50/50) and a female president for 20 out of the last 50 years.
If the scene was not so favorably set, the equal pay law may not have passed. But with women representing half of the workforce, half the government and half the population, there was just no stopping it.
That made a compelling recipe for success: reproductive rights and parenting partnerships to ensure that women have equal opportunities to work, then balance the scales in politics. After that, the pay gap practically closed itself. Rinse and repeat in the next country.
Take-away's from Leah Fessler's article
- For the past nine years, Iceland has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the world’s most gender-equal country,
- In 2016, Iceland had closed 87% of their gender pay gap. For comparison, in the US the gender pay gap is about 20% on average, though the gap is significantly higher for women of color.
- According to Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF’s gender equality campaign, the factor that most contributes to Iceland thinning gender wage gap is women’s economic participation.