Iceland wants to take the lead on gender equality in 2018. On January 1, the country passed a new law that penalizes companies with fines for paying women less than men for doing the same work. This makes Iceland the first country to ever enforce equal pay regardless of gender.
In 2017, Iceland’s parliament introduced a bill to make pay parity the law of the land. Now that the policy is active, companies with more than 25 employees have to receive a government certification assuring that both genders earn the same amount for the same work.
The country’s hard-fought victory wasn’t won overnight. According to Statistics Iceland, in 2015, the gender pay gap based on regular earnings and overtime between women and their male counterparts was, on average, 17 percent. That same year at the UN’s Global Leaders' Meeting, the country pledged to close the wage gap by 2022, and now they’ve made good on their word.
Iceland’s new policy is extremely progressive, especially in comparison to the U.S. where companies can still pay men more than women despite doing equal work. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported, on average in 2015, American women made 80 cents for every dollar that their male peers earned. What’s more in the States, women of color— particularly, black women and Latina women— receive less than their male peers and their white female colleagues. Also, according to the National Women’s Law Center, women at all education levels experience a wage gap and are often paid lower than their male coworkers despite having a higher degree.
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What you can do:
The National Women’s Law Center is one organization that is committed to helping all women win equal pay. Learn more about their efforts to strengthen equal pay laws so that gender-based wage discrimination is a thing of the past.
If you’re an employer or a senior employee at a company where women are underrepresented in leadership roles, then use your position of privilege to remove the obstacles that women face in their career trajectory.
Women are more likely to be caregivers and that can impact their ability to work. Reach out to your member of Congress and advocate for better family and medical leave and affordable child care laws to protect working women who are also caregivers.
And then some:
In the U.S., the only legislation that comes close to Iceland’s gender parity rule is the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963, which mandates that women earn the same amount as men for equal work. President Kennedy created this law as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and as a way to end gender-based wage-discrimination. Despite this decades old policy, data from the US Department of Labor shows that women still earn less than men
The fight for gender parity in the U.S. continues to be an issue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) lauded Iceland’s move towards greater gender equality in a post on Facebook.
Sanders wrote, “We must follow the example of our brothers and sisters in Iceland and demand equal pay for equal work now, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.”