Women in Iceland Take the Day Off Skip to content

Women in Iceland Take the Day Off

Women all around Iceland, in Reykjavík, Ísafjördur, Skagafjördur, Akureyri and Egilsstadir, left work at 2:25 pm yesterday and marched to their respective town centers to raise awareness of the gender gap in salaries and violence against women.

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From the Women’s Day Off in Reykjavík. Photos by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

In Reykjavík alone, it is estimated that 50,000 women gathered at Arnarhóll by the Government Offices and listened to speeches and music in spite of the stormy and rainy weather.

The day’s project leader, Bryndís Bjarnason, said their determination was characteristic of their fiery hot fighting spirit, Morgunbladid reports.

Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the first Women’s Day Off in 1975 when society was paralyzed because of the women’s strike.

Ending the workday at 2:25 pm yesterday has a symbolic meaning, because at that point women stop getting paid when the difference in salaries between men and women is taken into account.

Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, who is the guest of honor at a conference held on that subject, reminded attendees that equality by law is not sufficient, substantial equality must be achieved.

Yet even though a salary gap of 65.65 percent remains, much has been achieved in the fight for women’s rights in Iceland in the past 35 years.

Gudrún Jónsdóttir, the founder of Stígamót, education and counseling center for survivors of sexual abuse and violence, said in her speech that at the first Women’s Day Off the concept of “gender-based violence” had been practically unknown.

Hildur Fridleifsdóttir, director of Landsbanki’s main branch on Austurstraeti in downtown Reykjavík, was among the demonstrators yesterday. She said many things had changed since she first started working as a banker.

“I remember the boys were always paid more than the girls even though they had exactly the same background and the same duties. The boys were, for example, always given a little bit more money on summer jobs—then the old attitude that the man was the household’s prime earner prevailed,” Fridleifsdóttir said.

She believes workplaces operate best if there is an equal distribution among male and female employees. “We approach projects differently which is useful.”

Today, Landsbanki’s employees earn the same regardless of their gender, at least among those working the same jobs, Fridleifsdóttir stated. However, the majority of clerks are women, a profession which is behind in wage development, she added.

“I believe it’s good to raise awareness of the salary and wage issues of women in society in general. In some places they’ve dropped out of the race, in other places they haven’t,” Fridleifsdóttir concluded.

Landsbanki’s male employees were happy to take on the duties of their female colleagues who wanted to attend yesterday’s demonstration.

“Absolutely. These are just two hours once a year. It’s a positive thing and it’s good to remind people of the fight and to keep it on the agenda. Now there is a crisis which poses a risk of maintaining low salaries,” commented Yngvi Ódinn Gudmundsson, director of the Landsbanki branch in Hamraborg, Kópavogur.

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