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It’s Women’s Day Off

Today, 24 October, is Women’s Day Off here in Iceland.

On this date 30 years ago, 25,000 Icelandic women walked off the job to call attention to the importance of their contribution to society. Many also took the day off from the household chores. No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no women’s work. Instead they headed downtown in droves for an outdoor rally and general all-round celebration of strength. Women’s Day Off has been celebrated each year since, but rarely with as much energy as it is set to be today.

One woman who was faced with a particular conundrum on this day 20 years ago was then-President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir [the world’s first democratically-elected female President]. Icelandair stewardesses had gone on strike the day before and all Icelandair planes were grounded as a result. The government was in an uproar and on the 23rd they drafted legislation to order them back to work. As with all Icelandic legislation, it had to be signed by the President [the Head of State] for it to become law. President Vigdís was put in the difficult situation of having to choose between signing the bill and incurring the wrath of the general female population, or not signing the bill [which she would have preferred, she has said] and facing a governmental crisis. Apparently the all-male cabinet had whipped itself into a frenzy just at the possibility of Vigdís not signing, and ministers were already threatening to resign. [In a later interview she said she had marvelled at the fact that no-one had actually asked her if she would refuse to sign the bill. Which I think is pretty hilarious, really, seeing as they were prepared to flush their careers down the bog.] Anyway, in the end her very diplomatic solution was to wait several hours to sign, or as long as she possibly could, which allowed her to make her point without absolute mayhem resulting, yet giving women the feeling that they were heard.

SO TODAY WOMEN ARE WALKING OUT AT 2.08 PM
… Because a recent survey shows that women in Iceland – despite their supposed independence and autonomy – still earn a mere 64.14% of men’s salaries. [If overtime is factored in, it works out to 72%.] At 2.08pm women will have worked 64.15% of a normal 9-5 day.

Widespread participation is already a given. The media is full-out urging women to take part and loads of businesses – including the National Bank of Iceland and some of the savings banks – are closing at 2pm. Clearly they are smart enough to realize that equality is not solely women’s business, but is an issue that all of society has to face and resolve. Many of my female clients and contacts have informed me that they’ll be leaving work at that time so they won’t be available. Everyone’s heading downtown to take part in the march and rally.

Naturally YT will be joining in. Never mind that I am self-employed and would not dream of paying myself any less than I would a man. [Unless I thought I could get away with it.*] In fact, I’m really looking forward to heading into town and being in the company of smart, sassy, fun and feisty females all afternoon. Rock on!

BUT IS THE WEATHER ON STRIKE?
Nope. And I’m going to come clean and tell you all that it’s not really Monday yet – it’s still Sunday but it’s really really close to Monday so I’m going to pretend that I’m a little ahead of myself and post this now because I want to have this up for the Full Women’s Day Off [and not post it sometime when I have time, which probably won’t be until after the rally]. So today [Sunday] it was kind of dreary and cold [a couple of degrees, overcast and gray] and it’s due to remain cold for the next couple of weeks. Which means an úlpa and hatscarfmittens are required when heading outside. Current temps are, in fact, 2°C and the sun comes up at 8.45 on this WDO Monday and will set promptly at 17.37.

* Just kidding.

ADDENDUM: Special props to Fréttablaðið for printing their banner in pink today, instead of their customary blue. And special props also to Minister of Social Affairs Árni Magnússon, who has revealed that upon taking office in the ministry, one of his first jobs was to look into the wage gap and to correct it where women were earning less than men solely on the basis of gender. Stressing that equality is a human rights issue, he has also proposed a new Equality Certification which would be granted to companies that demonstrate that there is no wage gap in their ranks. We’ll take more like him, please!

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