Iceland a model nation for US to follow in closing gender gap

Viewpoints Editor

Achieving social justice in our community depends on resolution, determination and reexamination of our values. For the purpose of gender equality, the United States could take a lead from policies in countries like Iceland.

For the fifth year in a row, Iceland has been ranked number one in closing the gender gap. The ranking was conducted by the World Economic Fund.  Through a series if legislation, Iceland  has pushed for progressive, feminist policies that aim to establish equality. 

It is definitely important to consider the legal strides towards social justice. Social Democrat Johanna Sigurdardottir reformed the Icelandic economic state after 2008. She is also recognized as the world’s first openly gay prime minister. Responsible for mandating a 40 percent quota of women as board members, this prime minister and the Icelandic government is what has put Iceland in the lead for equality. 

On the other hand, Alda Sigmundsdóttir, a writer based in Reykjavik writes in her blogs that sexism is still alive in her country. She point out that this is the reason for the 40 percent quota mandate. Sigmundsdóttir notes that political committees often have token women but are majority men. 

The hope for Iceland is that culture follows legislation. It is significant that the figures that hold power represent ideals of equality. We don’t have that in the Unite States. Recently, Iceland tried to pass a ban on hardcore pornography, arguing that this kind of pornography is violence against women, which it is. 

One especially significant move that Iceland made was, after the banks went bankrupt in 2008, the business leaders responsible were prosecuted. In the same year, the United States bailed out the banks, not the people.  

Sigmundsdóttir’s comments are an important contrast to the progressive legislation. It is an indication that the people there have a voice. If Iceland cannot be held as an absolute model of social justice, it can be applauded as a successful example of democracy.

The World Economic Fund does their research and ranks countries because gender equality is a representation of the standard of living for all people, not just women.  The ranking is also a direct indicator of economic competitiveness. The report examines conditions of healthcare, education, employment and leadership to assess these countries. The top five countries on the list are all Nordic countries. The progress in these countries stem from cultural values.

In 2010, when I visited Iceland, I got to closely observe youth culture, which is an indicator of Iceland’s future. Young people there, like in the United States, are comfortable expressing themselves out of the gender norms. They also seem to generally smile more.