Icelandic women protest the country’s 14 percent gender wage gap like bosses
Iceland has literally been recognized as “the best country in the world for gender equality,” but being the ubiquitous force that it is, of course the gender wage gap still found a way to infect its workplaces. And keep in mind that the Icelandic wage gap exists in spite of its family leave policy. At any rate, the gender wage gap in Iceland is between 14 and 18 percent (still better than in the U.S., FYI), and on Monday, Icelandic women protested the wage gap in the most clever way possible: by leaving work 30 percent early, or at 2:38 p.m. to be exact.
The wage gap in Iceland, again, is between 14 and 18 percent, but protesters derived the 30 percent statistic from multiplying the number of men in Iceland by the amount they earn and doing the same for women, although it’s worth noting there are more working men in the country of 330,000 people than women, and more work full-time jobs.
There are many ways to interpret wage disparities, and to Icelandic women, the difference between what they’re paid and what their male counterparts are paid means that at a certain time of the day (2:38 p.m.), they’re essentially working for free. So why work past that point?
While similar, small-scale protests have been taking place throughout the Nordic country, the most protesters congregated Monday in the capital, Reykjavik, where thousands of women gathered in central Austurvöllur square. The protest, of course, had all kinds of precedent. Back in 1975, 90 percent of the country’s female population either left work or their homes if they didn’t work to highlight their deeply undervalued societal importance. Thirty years later in 2005, women left work at 2:08 p.m. (the minute they began “working for free”) and again in 2008 at 2:25 p.m.
Obviously, it’s not as if every employer in Iceland automatically pays women 86 percent of what men working the same job would make. In the United States, maternity but not family leave has been attributed as a crucial reason for pay discrimination and the wage gap, but since this isn’t the case in Iceland, other potential reasons exist, including sexist perceptions of who deserves raises and promotions and implicit cultural biases steering more women into lower paying fields.
The point is that the form of protest might not represent the situation 100 percent accurately, but you’d have to be a real douche bag to emphasize this over the symbolic power and cultural importance of the protest.
At any rate, if American women wanted to protest the wage gap in a similar manner based on data from 2015, which estimates a 20 percent disparity, they would have to leave work at 3:24 p.m., assuming they work the typical American 9-to-5 grind.
And if women of color wanted to accurately represent their situation, they’d have to take it a step further. Hispanic and Latina, African-American, and American Indian women would have to leave work at roughly 1:19 p.m., 2:02 p.m. and 1:38 p.m., respectively. If you’re too lazy to do the math, the wage gaps for these groups are 54 percent, 63 percent, and 58 percent, respectively, according to data from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The gap ultimately varies quite a bit by state, too.
Iceland’s tradition of protesting workplace inequality began in 1975, and if American women decide to get in on this, well, good luck to us — according to some estimates, the gap isn’t slated to close until 2152.