On October 24, 1974, the women of Iceland made a stand. They didn’t show up for work, nor did they cook, clean or look after their children.
Men took their children to work, armed with pencils and colouring books to keep them occupied. They could be heard playing in the background of the radio and news broadcasts.
On leaving work the men realised the children had to be fed and the shops ran out of the only convenience food of the period: sausages.
Last year Iceland became the first country in the world to make companies provide they are not paying women less than men for the same work, as reported by The Guardian. The pay gap there is due to close in 2022, in comparison to the rest of the world which will take 217 years.
Their movements align with the threshold the country has set for consistently challenging the status quo: pornography has been banned since 1869 and they elected the world’s first openly lesbian prime minister was elected in 2009.
The country has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index for the past nine consecutive years and has the highest female employment rate in the world.
In 2016, women accounted for 48% of elected representatives in the Icelandic Parliament. In the NSW Public Sector, women make up two-thirds of the workforce, but only one third of senior leadership positions.
“In 2017, seven of our 10 public sector clusters still did not have gender balance in their leadership positions and three of those seven had less than 40% of their senior positions filled by women,”said Madeleine Culbert, CEO of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, told Public Sector Women.
“To be fair, those figures are slowly improving. Overall, the percentage gap in leadership positions has become smaller.
“In 2016, women held 36.1% of leadership positions. In 2017, it went up 1.3 percentage points to 37.4% which is at least movement in the right direction and almost all clusters with less than 50% representation of women in senior leadership positions did better in their 2017 results than they did in 2016.”
How has Iceland achieved their world best rankings?
- They’ve embraced quotas for company boards which require women to fill 50% of positions.
- Each parent is given three months of paid maternity leave which cannot be transferred
- Childcare is subsidised by local government
- Gender equality is taught in schools throughout all levels of education
- Prostitution isn’t just illegal, criminilisation is placed on the paying party
“The struggle is aimed at changing the system – the normative and the legal rules governing our lives – which has been shaped by people with and in power. This is also the reason why women need to have equal power and to be in power. Simple as that,” Magnea Marinósdóttir, Equality Unit, Ministry of Welfare, Iceland.
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Running in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth in September and October, this is an event for aspiring and seasoned leaders alike.