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Clearly, the last 150 years of women’s rights campaigns have been a part of Icelandic consciousness, as the nation continues to be ranked the best place to be a woman. Perhaps it is written in the history of the country as a seafaring nation whose men were out at sea for long periods of time, which caused the women to be in charge of managing household affairs. A low gender pay gap and excellent maternity leave are only a few of the reasons why many often claim this island to be one of the best places to be a woman.
While the popularity of recent female empowerment movements such as #FreeTheNipple and SlutWalk have been extremely popular in Iceland, the tiny island in the North Atlantic has actually had a long and surprisingly radical women’s rights agenda. Beginning in 1850, Iceland became the first country to grant unconditional equal inheritance rights to men and women. Not much time after that, women got the right to vote in 1915, five years before the United States.
On October 24, 1975, practically every woman in the country protested for economic equality and a year later, Parliament passed a law guaranteeing equal pay for women. Five years after the demonstration, Iceland elected Vigdís Finnbogadóttir as president, Iceland’s and Europe’s first democratically elected female president who would serve for the next 16 years.
For more details on Iceland’s active involvement, check out our article on the defining moments of this most feminist country.
According to the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report for 2017, Iceland remains the world’s most gender-equal country across all indicators. Only Iceland has closed more than 70% of its gender gap when it came to political empowerment while only four other countries have crossed the 50% threshold. Since the forum began their reports in 2006, Iceland has closed 10% of its total gender gap, making it one of the most fast-improving countries in the world.
Iceland has one of the top ten best parental leave policies in the world with parents having nine months of post-childbirth leave. The leave can be split in three with mothers getting three months, fathers getting three months, and the couple can split the remaining three however they wish. The portions cannot be altered, however, as the government wants to ensure both parents get time with the kids. Also, each parent receives 80% of their salary while on leave.