Parties Publish Candidate Lists in Lead-Up to Fall Elections

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

The candidate lists for all of the parties except the People’s Party have been published, giving voters a clear picture of their options for the upcoming parliamentary elections this fall. RÚV reports that 17 of the current MPs—13 men and four women—will not run in the coming elections. The remaining MPs—25 men and 21 women—will offer themselves for reelection.

The Left-Greens, Social-Democratic Alliance, Pirate Party, Independence Party, and Centre Party all have three outgoing MPs. The Progressive Party has one outgoing MP; another of its representatives, Þórunn Egilsdóttir, recently passed away.

All of the MPs for the Reform Party will be up for reelection, as will both MPs for the People’s Party.

There are more men leaving their seats in parliament than women, but men will still make up the majority of candidates after reelections, as there are more male candidates overall. Nevertheless, there are more women running for election than there were in 2017. The party’s gender balance among list-leaders is even: there are 18 women and 18 men at the top of the parties’ lists overall.

Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi, is made up of 63 representatives who are elected by proportional representation for four-year terms. Elections will take place on Saturday, September 25.

Encouraging Women to Become Marine Engineers, Ship Captains

Associated Icelandic Ports, or Faxaports, the company that manages a number of major ports in Reykjavík and West Iceland, has signed a contract with the Technical College in which both parties have agreed to take concrete steps towards establishing gender equity within the fields of marine engineering and navigation.

Reykjavík’s Technical College currently offers marine captain, master of ships, and marine engineering study programmes. Faxaports is the largest port company in Iceland, “the main gateway for import to Iceland and export from the country,” as director Gísli Gíslason told, and  “…handles 100,000 tons of fish, 330,000 TEU and 190,000 cruise passengers” per year. Both parties see the establishment of gender parity in the marine industry as being in their mutual interest and have committed to work together to reach this goal.

Among other things, Faxaport will make jobs in its harbour facilities more accessible to women. It will hire two women studying ship captaincy to work in its ports during the summer months each year, which will give them practical, hands-on training and experience in their chosen fields and make efforts to find summer work for women students of marine engineering in its facilities.

The Technical College will make concerted efforts to encourage women to enter marine industry study programs and will assist with education, retraining, and professional development in marine engineering and ship captaincy among Faxaport’s current staff. Additionally, Faxaport and the Technical College will establish an award to recognise a woman, or women, who are studying in a marine-related study programme.

In so doing, both parties hope to make marine captaincy and engineering “more accessible and interesting to women.”


New Bill Proposes Fines on Companies with Gender-Imbalanced Boards

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

A new parliamentary bill would impose fines on Icelandic companies that do not fulfil a gender quota on their corporate boards, reports. The bill was presented by Left-Green MP Lilja Rafney Magnúsdóttir and has the support of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who says she believes it will be welcomed by the business community.

According to the terms of the bill, which is currently under consideration in Alþingi, a daily fine of between ISK 10-100,000 ($80-790/€75-730) would be levied against companies whose corporate boards are not comprised of a legally mandated gender balance – namely that no gender may have less than 40% representation. The fine would be assessed until the company submitted an updated notice to the Register of Corporations showing a more equal gender balance.

According to recent reports, the percentage of women on corporate boards in Iceland is just over 30%, despite the fact that a higher rate is mandated by law and has been since 2010. It has also become clear that laws on gender quotas have not had the hoped-for spillover effect and led to more women entering executive or senior management positions.

“I think parliament should approve this bill,” the Prime Minister remarked during her speech at the Iceland Chamber of Commerce’s business conference in Harpa on Thursday. “…I believe that it will be welcomed by the business community.” Indeed, earlier in the conference, when Chamber of Commerce Chair Katrín Olga Jóhannesdóttir asked all attendees who were committed to being part of the solution when it comes to equality issues in the industry to stand, nearly every person in attendance did so.

“We all know that men and women are equal,” the Prime Minister concluded. “The fact that there are not more women executives [in Iceland] is a waste of human resources.”

All Executive Positions in Stock Market Companies Held by Men

All of the executives for all of the companies listed on the Icelandic Stock Exchange are men, RÚV reports. Fourteen men have been hired as CEOs at these companies in the last seven years, while not a single woman has been hired to an equal position in same time period.

There are eighteen companies listed on the Icelandic Stock Exchange (also known as Nasdaq Iceland). Eighteen men are employed as executives or directors there, but no women. There are twelve men in management positions at these companies, while six women act as managers for Arion Bank, Marel, Hagar, Síminn, Sjóva, and VÍS.

It’s a status quo that people such as Katrín Olga Jóannesdóttir, the chairman of the board at the Iceland Chamber of Commerce, lament in light of Iceland’s professed commitment to correcting gender imbalances and addressing equality issues. It’s also notable that when Katrín Olga took over as the Chamber of Commerce’s chairman last year, it was the first time since 1914 that a woman had held the position. At a recent conference on commerce and business, she took the opportunity to call attention to women’s status in the business world.

“I think it’s sad, I must admit. Business opportunities are being missed,” she remarked. “This is, of course, the tradition—men are normally the role models. And maybe it’s normal, too, that when women are knocking on the door, they don’t want to move over.”

Iceland established a gender quota by law six years ago, and yet women still only have executive roles at less than 10% of the country’s 400 largest companies.

“It’s not because of the Icelandic business world that Iceland is number one on equality issues,” continued Katrín Olga. “It’s because of the public sector.”

Katrín Olga believes that more men need to be involved in the process of overcoming the gender deficit. “It’s so easy to dismiss women who talk about equality issues because a woman is, in a way, talking about herself,” she said. “It pains me as the chairman of the board at the Chamber of Commerce, because we are working from the premise that private enterprise and individual freedom is what matters. Which is why I think that we need to be a role model in this area.”


More Women Than Men on City Council Committees

There are more women than men on three out of six of the City of Reykjavík’s standing councils. This is not in compliance with gender equality laws, which state that the ratio of men to women must be as equal as possible on all municipal committees and councils, RÚV reports.

Three committees are currently each comprised of five women and two men: Human Rights and Democracy, Environment and Health, and the Welfare Committee. The gender balance on the remaining three standing committees—Sport and Leisure, Planning and Transportation, and Education and Youth—is more even.

Asked about the imbalance, Left Green councilor Líf Magneudóttir explained that the committee membership had been reshuffled after the last election in order to rebalance the gender ratios as much as possible, but that the situation had become more difficult after an increase in the number of councilors and changes made to City Council’s organizational structure.

There is also the fact that women now make up the majority—or 15 out of 23 councilors. In order to fulfill their duties as a councilor, Líf says, they must sit on at least two committees, meaning that there would naturally be a gender imbalance on the committees. The city council needs to address the issue as a whole, however, she says, after the summer recess is over.