89. How Sisterhood, Sexuality and Civil Disobedience Set the Stage for Gender Equity in Iceland

Iceland’s First Lady, Eliza Reid’s recent book, The Sprakar: Iceland’s Extraordinary Women, inspired this timely exploration of the policies, strategies and approaches Iceland has used to achieve its first place spot in gender equity.  The word Sprakar means wise, powerful woman.  Wow – a language with a name for a bad-ass woman!  Here is some of what she has to say:

Iceland holds to #1 spot in the world in gender equity according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index.  The US is ranked #53.  Most striking, 88% of Icelandic women work outside the home while only 57.4% of US women work outside the home.  What is going on in Iceland?!

HELPING PARENTS HELPS US ALL

Comprehensive healthcare for pregnant moms removes the burden of not having adequate prenatal and maternal care.  The government provides leave to both parents – up to 9 months between the 2 parents.  Subsidized high-quality childcare is available in most neighborhoods.  The government offers pre-k education along with a traditional schooling system, plus after school programming.  Iceland believes that supporting families supports society at large – and women who work.

STRENGTH IN SISTERHOOD

Women in Iceland have a long tradition of creating social networks and groups to foster connection.  In the past, it may have been a knitting or crafting group or a group that organized around philanthropy, while today it may be a cold water swimming group, hiking, art or other interest group.

STIGMA FREE SEXUALITY

Iceland has a relatively stigma- free culture of sexuality.  Transgender people feel alot of acceptance in Iceland.  Iceland’s results tell us when women and transgender people’s sexuality is not judged and controlled, women experience more equity.

CLAIMING THE CORPORATE PURSE STRINGS

Iceland has adopted broad laws that require equity.  Its pay equity law requires businesses to prove pay equity. It has also adopted a law to require 40% membership on corporate boards of directors.  Both of these laws have led to significant progress on both issues.

When we talk about what we can do to create ease, meaning and joy for women at work, Iceland may be the best place for us to look.